Skip to main content

Full text of "Montesquieu '' The Spirit Of Laws'' [ Cambridge, Integral]"

See other formats



The Spirit of the Lam 

Prolem sine matre creatum 

Ovid , Metamorphose 2.553 


Introduction xi 

Principal events in Montesquieu ’s life xxix 

Bibliographical note xxxi 

Translators ’ preface xxxiv 

List of abbreviations xxxix 

Author’s foreword xli 

Preface xliii 

Figure i xlvi 

Part 1 

B o o k i On laws in general 3 

B o o K 2 On laws deriving directly from the nature of the 

government 10 

B o o k 3 On the principles of the three governments 2 1 

B o o k 4 That the laws of education should be relative to the 

principles of the government 3 1 

B o o k 5 That the laws given by the legislator should be 

relative to the principle of the government 42 

B 00 K 6 Consequences of the principles of the various 
governments in relation to the simplicity of civil 
and criminal laws, the form of judgments, and the 
establishment of penalties 72 

B 00 k 7 Consequences of the different principles of the 
three governments in relation to sumptuary laws, 
luxury, and the condition of women 




B o o K 8 On the corruption of the principles of the three 

governments 1x2 

Part 2 

B o o K 9 On the laws in their relation with defensive force 13 1 
Book 10 On laws in their relation with offensive force 1 3 8 

Book i l On the laws that form political liberty in its 

relation with the constitution 154 

Book 12 On the laws that form political liberty in relation 

to the citizen 187 

B o o K 1 3 On the relations that the levy of taxes and the size 

of public revenues have with liberty 213 

Part 3 

B o o k 14 On the laws in their relation to the nature of the 

climate 231 

Book 15 How the laws of civil slavery are related with the 

nature of the climate 246 

Book 16 How the laws of domestic slavery are related to 

the nature of the climate 264 

Book 17 How the laws of political servitude are related to 

the nature of the climate 278 

B 0 o K 18 On the laws in their relation with the nature of 

the terrain 285 

B o o K 19 On the laws in their relation with the principles 
forming the general spirit, the mores, and the 
manners of a nation 308 

Part 4 

B o OK 20 On the laws in their relation to commerce, 

considered in its nature and its distinctions 337 

B 0 0 K 2 1 On laws in their relation to commerce, considered 

in the revolutions it has had in the world 354 

B 0 o K 22 On laws in their relation to the use of money 398 

B o ok 23 On laws in their relation to the number of 

inhabitants 427 



Part 5 

B o o K 24 On the laws in their relation to the religion 

established in each country, examined in respect 
to its practices and within itself 459 

B o o K 25 On the laws in their relation with the 

establishment of the religion of each country, and 
of its external police 479 

B o O K 26 On the laws in the relation they should have with 

the order of things upon which they are to enact 494 

Part 6 

Book 27 Only Chapter. On the origin and revolutions 

of the Roman laws on inheritance 521 

B o o K 28 On the origin and revolutions of the civil laws 

among the French 532 

B o o k 29 On the way to compose the laws 602 

B o o k 30 The theory of the feudal laws among the Franks 
in their relation with the establishment of the 
monarchy 619 

B O o K 3 1 The theory of the feudal laws among the Franks 
in their relation to the revolutions of their 
monarchy 669 

Bibliography 723 

Index of names and places 735 

Index of works cited 747 



In a letter written in 1748 when The Spirit of the Laws was first 
published Montesquieu wrote, “I can say that I have worked on it my 
whole life: I was given some law books when I left my college ; I sought 
their spirit, I worked, but I did nothing worthwhile. I discovered my 
principles twenty years ago: they are quite simple; anyone else working 
as hard as I did would have done better. But I swear that this book 
nearly killed me; I am going to rest now; I shall work no more” ( Oeuvres 
de Montesquieu, ed. Andre Masson (3 vols., Paris, 1950-1954), vol. 3, 
p. 1200). 

The publication of The Spirit of the Laws did mark the end of 
Montesquieu’s work. He was, like La Bruyere and Montaigne before 
him, a man who put all he knew into his one book. Although it was 
published as Diderot, d’Alembert, and Rousseau were imagining the 
Enlightenment in the coffee houses and salons of Paris, and although 
the first volume of the Encyclopedia and Rousseau’s Discourse on the Arts 
and Sciences appeared just three years later, these facts suggest the 
wrong context. Rather, The Spirit of the Laws belongs to the first half of 
the eighteenth century - to a period of relative quiet when one could 
think of reform, muddling through, or marking time. Montesquieu, for 
example, wrote of Cromwell, “It was a fine spectacle in the last century 
to see the impotent attempts of the English to establish democracy 
among themselves. As those who took part in public affairs had no 
virtue at all, as their ambition was excited by the success of the most 
audacious one and the spirit of one faction was repressed only by the 
spirit of another, the government was constantly changing; the people, 
stunned, sought democracy and found it nowhere. Finally, after much 


motion and many shocks and jolts, they had to come to rest on the veiy 
government that had been proscribed” (3.3). Here Montesquieu 
lectured the English, as Burke was later to lecture the French, for 
forgetting the need to preserve the forms as they changed toward a 
popular government. 

In retrospect we have identified three different ways of life in France 
before the revolution: that of the orders of the feudal monarchy, that of 
the absolute king and his servants, the bureaucrats, and their equal 
subjects, and that of those corners of society which supported the new 
thought and freedom. But in Montesquieu’s time the distinction was 
not so clear. An examination of Montesquieu’s life provides a view of 
the eighteenth century as it impinged upon Montesquieu; he was a 
feudal proprietor, wine merchant, parliamentarian, academician, man 
of letters. Although he took his place briefly in the Parliament of 
Bordeaux and toyed with the notion of serving the king in foreign 
relations, he principally worked to maintain his family and took part in 
the academies and other less formal gatherings of like-minded men 
and women. Here we shall first consider Montesquieu’s life as a noble 
landowner, then as an eighteenth-century man of letters, and finally as 
the author of The Spirit of the Laws. Then we shall proceed to the book 
itself and its reception. 

The noble landowner 

Montesquieu’s family first appears among the provincial nobility of 
Bordeaux, when Jean de Secondat, whose wife was related to the 
Plantagenets, was ennobled in 1562. The tide was raised to a barony in 
1606 by Henry IV. Two generations later, Montesquieu’s grandfather, 
whose wife was the daughter of the First President of the parliament, 
became President a Mortier in the Parliament of Bordeaux. (The office 
of president was bought, sold, and inherited; there were, in the 
parliament, a number of Presidents a Mortier who served on various 
panels as judges and administrators and one First President.) This 
family offered its members the choice of either the parliamentary 
nobility of the robe or the military nobility of the sword; at the same 
time it saw to it that the family lands and goods all stayed within the 
family, that the children beyond those needed to continue the family 
joined religious orders, and that those who took up either robe or sword 
married well. This was a noble family, carefully built and maintained, 


depending on no single notion of honor or prosperity. Montesquieu 
was to write to his son, “You are of the robe or the sword. It is up to you 
to choose when you have to answer as to your estate” (i Oeuvres , vol. 2, 
Pensees 5(69)). 

Montesquieu’s uncle, his father’s oldest brother, became Baron de 
Montesquieu and President a Mortier, but he had no surviving 
children. Montesquieu’s father, a younger son, took up arms as a 
profession, finally fighting the Turks in Hungary, where “he must have 
been somewhat well regarded,” said Montesquieu, “because, when I 
was in Vienna, I still found former officers who remembered having 
seen him” ( Oeuvres , vol. 3, p. 1564). When Montesquieu’s father 
returned to Bordeaux, he married a rich noblewoman, who inherited 
the barony of La Brede, as well as many debts that he spent much of the 
rest of his life retiring. His three other brothers became ecclesiastics, 
and his three sisters, nuns. Our Montesquieu, Charles Louis de 
Secondat, stood to inherit both from his uncle, the Baron de Montesquieu 
and President a Mortier, and his father, the Baron de La Brede, 
becoming finally Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de 
Montesquieu and President a Mortier of the Parlement of Bordeaux. 
Eventually Montesquieu sold the presidence he had inherited from his 
uncle, but he remained the careful steward of the family lands. 

Montesquieu was bom in 1 689 at La Brede. His early life moved 
smoothly toward preparing him for his position both as noble land- 
owner and as parliamentary magistrate. His first experiences were of 
everyday rural life, and he continued to feel at home on his estates. It is 
said that, like Montaigne, he was given a beggar as godfather and spent 
his earliest years being cared for in the mill near La Brede. Much later 
in his life, he was taken for a worker in his own vineyards by visitors who 
addressed him as a peasant and asked him the way to Montesquieu’s 

At age eleven Montesquieu was sent to the College de Juilly near 
Paris, an excellent and aristocratic institution, to begin the education 
that was to prepare him for the presidence. There he was given a 
thorough grounding in history, both ancient and modern. That educa- 
tion seems to have encouraged reading and comparing a wide variety of 
sources and keeping notebooks of reflections and of observations on a 
variety of topics, habits which Montesquieu maintained from then on. 
There is no record of Montesquieu’s time at the College, and 
Montesquieu, typically, remarks not upon the academic content of his 


education, but upon the moral education embedded in the practices of 
everyday life of a school which forced a young man “to betray his 
comrades every day in a hundred petty ways” and ruined “the hearts of 
all those within” ( Oeuvres , vol. 2, Pensees 2 1 8 (1758)). After graduating, 
Montesquieu was sent to study law at the University of Bordeaux, 
taking a licentiate after three years. He then returned to Paris, 
continuing his study of law in the courts of Paris, keeping notes as 
always. Little is known about this period of his life (1708-13), but he 
maintained an acquaintance with Pere Desmolets and Nicholas Freret, 
both of whom were probably known to him from College ( Oeuvres , vol. 
3, p. 729). He spoke extensively about China with a Chinese visitor, 
writing a summary in his notebooks that points toward both the Persian 
Letters and The Spirit of the Laws ( Oeuvres , vol. 2, pp. 924-63). In 1713, 
just after his father’s death, Montesquieu returned to Bordeaux to take 
up his inheritance. He bought himself a place in the parliament as a 
counsellor and married a woman who brought considerable lands and 
wealth with her. Little is known of her except that she was a practicing 
Protestant and the trusted steward of his lands during his absences. In 
1716 his uncle died, leaving Montesquieu the family estates and the 
presidence a mortier. In three years Montesquieu, now twenty-seven 
years old, had become a provincial nobleman of some consequence. 

These were very quiet years in the Parlement of Bordeaux; the 
ordinary judicial and administrative activities were primary. There 
were few moves made to revive and exercise the right of remonstrance, 
that is, the right to judge the legality of new laws, and no claim to be in 
any way the representatives of the nation, unlike some of the parlia- 
ments in the later period closer to the revolution. Montesquieu began 
in the court at its lowest rank, as a counsellor in the criminal court, and 
moved up as far as the senior president in that court. He served as the 
commissioner of prisons, was one of the counsellors charged with 
overseeing the assignment of those condemned to the galleys, and 
could not have avoided participating in interrogations that relied upon 
torture. His activities were always as a member of a panel of judges. 
The chief issues in the parliament in those years had to do with the 
complicated rules of precedence, both as they applied to relations 
between counsellors and presidents, and in respect to the disregard of 
those same rules by the governor of the region, the Marechal Berwick, 
who was to become a life-long friend of Montesquieu’s. Mon- 



tesquieu’s attendance in the sessions, never among the best, became so 
infrequent after the publication of the Persian Letters in 172 1 that there 
appear even to have been murmurs of discontent in the parliament. 
When Montesquieu sold the life interest in his presidence in 1728, his 
friend the President Barbot tried to persuade him to remain by arguing 
that, although the work was not pleasant, it was routine and easy, that it 
“scarcely distracts you from your other occupations or amusements” 
{Oeuvres, vol. 3, p. 819). Montesquieu answered that not the questions 
but the proceedings were incomprehensible to him and that it was 
tiresome “to see fools in possession of the very talent that fled me, so to 
speak” ( Oeuvres , vol. 2, Pensees 213(4)). There is no suggestion on 
either man’s part that the parliament could be anything more than a law 
court and a job. 

As a great landowner, Montesquieu took care to maintain his 
customary rights and to increase his land-holding. He was constantly 
involved in complicated legal actions and in buying land near his own. 
He\advised his daughter to invest her money in land and that legal 
actions were a part of being a great lady with much land {Oeuvres, vol. 3, 
pp. 1271, 1344). But Montesquieu was a modern farmer concerned 
with the market for his goods as well as a nobleman collecting his feudal 
goods. He was concerned with his vines, his wine, and the course of 
international trade in wine. In 1727 he found himself in conflict with 
the Intendant, writing a memorandum arguing that he knew best what 
to do with his land and wine, and objecting to the controls on 
production and export. The Intendant responded in a note to his 
superior with scorn for the excessive cleverness of the enlightened 
landowner {Oeuvres, vol. 3, p. 264). Here the nobleman’s presumption 
of independence, even while defending economic freedoms, runs 
against the planning, and even the egalitarianism, of the king’s servant. 
When the market for his wine collapsed, largely because wars made it 
impossible to ship it to England, he stayed in La Brede and did not 
spend his customary time in Paris. Thus, he wrote in 1742, “But I am 
afraid that if jhe war continues I shall be forced to go and plant 
cabbages at La Brede. In Guyenne, our commerce will soon be on its 
last legs; our wine will be left on our hands, and you know that it is our 
entire wealth” {Oeuvres, vol. 3, p. 1017). In sum, in a letter to a woman 
friend in Paris from La Brede, he wrote, “I hear people talk of nothing 
but grapevines, hard times, and lawsuits, and fortunately I am fool 



enough to enjoy all that, that is, to be interested in it” ( Oeuvres , vol. 3, 
p. 1383). He did not conduct his life as a man of letters at the expense of 
his life as a landowner. 

Montesquieu followed the family tradition in his arrangements for 
his children and estates. He educated his son to take over the presidence 
when it returned to his family upon the death of the man to whom he 
had sold his life -interest. Although his son briefly became a counsellor, 
he wanted to be a naturalist and refused to take up the presidence, which 
Montesquieu subsequently sold altogether. When it became clear to 
Montesquieu that his son was not likely to have any children, he 
married his daughter Denise to a distant cousin, Godefroy de 
Secondat, and arranged for the bulk of the estate to go to her children 
so that it would stay in the family. 

The man of letters 

In 1715, soon after returning to Bordeaux to take up the life of a 
provincial nobleman, Montesquieu was elected to the Academy of 
Bordeaux and remained active in it for the rest of his life, becoming its 
mainstay and its connection to Paris. The provincial academies offered 
a protected institutional environment in which the urban, educated 
nobles, the clergy, and the members of the third estate met to conduct 
altogether secular discussions of scientific, moral, and literary ques- 
tions. Papers were presented and discussed by the members of the 
Academy. Montesquieu reported primarily on scientific observations, 
but his discontent with this science is illustrated by his remarks that 
“these systems” are “no sooner set up than they are overthrown” 
0 Oeuvres , vol. 3, p. 52). He also offered a number of papers on social 
practices in other countries and times, and on duties and natural law, 
contrasting the performance of duties in accordance with natural law to 
a totally disordered pursuit of the desire of the moment. In one of the 
sections that remains from the Traite des devoirs , which Montesquieu 
never finished for publication, he again follows the traditional formula, 
saying that the monarchy is based on the spirit of obedience ( Oeuvres , 
vol. 3, p. 169). This last comment indicates the distance his thought 
was to travel before he wrote The Spirit of the Laws, where honor is said 
to be the principle of action in a monarchy. 

In 172 1 Montesquieu published the Persian Letters anonymously and 
began to move increasingly in Parisian and European literary society. 



The Persian Letters purport to be letters by two Persian gentlemen 
visiting Europe from 1710 to 1720 written to their friends, to each 
other, to a miscellany of other figures, and to and from the harem of the 
protagonist, Usbek. As they set out, Usbek praises sincerity and claims 
that his troubles in Persia began with his decision to speak honestly to 
the king. In response to a request from his friends in Persia to remind 
them of their conversations about virtue, he writes the story of the 
Troglodytes, whose inclination to help each other became an inclina- 
tion to follow their own desires, or self-interest, until all but one 
virtuous family had died. Their morality remained a consequence of 
inclinations, not of contemplation. The central portion of the Persian 
Letters offers a cool dissection of the foibles of eighteenth -century, 
particularly French, society and politics. In the last series of letters 
Usbek reacts increasingly despotically to his wives’ evasion of their 
confinement, of their enforced virtue. As a charming and pointed 
commentary on French mores, the book is part of the long tradition of 
writing by French moralists, often particularly reminiscent of La 
Bruyere’s Caract'eres . But in its concluding pages Montesquieu under- 
mines the position of the moralist, the observer, through his descrip- 
tion of the collapse of the harem and the violence of Usbek’s response. 
This conclusion gives the book its peculiar allure, makes it into a 
puzzle, and points away from the moralizing works of his youth. 

From 1721 to 1728, Montesquieu’s visits to Paris became longer 
and more frequent. He became a part of court society, devoting himself 
to various ladies and offering no disapproval of the morals of the court. 
He also became a regular in the salon of Mme. Lambert. In this salon, 
as in the others that Montesquieu was to attend when he returned to 
Paris after 1733, conversation was based not on rank and manners, but 
upon character, wit, and knowledge. Montesquieu seems also to have 
attended the Club de l’Entresol, where those invited often had 
particular expertise; each session was formally divided into a time for 
general discussion of government and international events and a time 
when a paper was read and considered. The chief concern behind 
these discussions seems to have been both the histoiy and the reform of 
institutions. Boulainviiliers, whose work Montesquieu discusses 
extensively in Book 30 of The Spirit of the Laws, had attended this club, 
as did the Abbe de Saint Pierre and Bolingbroke. It was suppressed by 
the government, as was another such club that Montesquieu attended; 
Montesquieu saw the dissolution of these kinds of little free academies 


as a real loss for men of letters ( Oeuvres , vol. 3, pp. 1343-1344). He 
seems to have taken advantage of social environs in which the rules and 
hierarchy of the absolute monarchy were not enforced. In 1728, he 
arranged to become a member of the French Academy with the help of 
his friends and what must have been a politic interview with Cardinal 
Fleury, the First Minister of Louis XV. He was not to become an active 
member of that academy until he resumed his regular visits to Paris 
after his European tour. 

Those of Montesquieu’s writings that seem to have been directed to 
this Parisian audience portray exotic settings, pretty women, harmless 
adventure, and Roman virtue. Only Rousseau took offence, saying of 
one such piece, “If, for example, there is any moral purpose in the 
Temple de Gnide it is thoroughly obfuscated and spoiled by the 
voluptuous details and lascivious images. What has the author done to 
cover it with a gloss of modesty? He has pretended that this work was 
the translation of a Greek manuscript and has fashioned the story about 
the discovery of this manuscript in the manner most likely to persuade 
his readers of the truth of his tale. . . . But who has thought to accuse 
the author of a crime for this lie or to call him a deceiver for it?” 
(Rousseau, Reveries (New York, 1982), p. 49). The only paper of 
Montesquieu’s found in the files of the Club de l’Entresol is the 
Dialogue de Sylla et d’Eucrate, but its only imaginable connection with 
the interests of the club is the criticism Montesquieu implies by joining 
Sulla’s noble -sounding talk of social reform with his great violence and 

The author of The Spirit of the Lam 

Montesquieu set forth on an extended trip in 1728, traveling primarily 
to Italy and England, and he did not return to La Brede until 1731, 
when he began the work that led directly to writing The Spirit of the 
Laws. What precisely, if anything, Montesquieu originally expected 
from this tour is not clear. He might already have had the writing of 
The Spirit of the Laws in mind. In 1747 he wrote in his Preface that 
he had discovered his principles twenty years previously, that is, 
before setting out. There is no direct evidence for this, but parts of 
Book 3 on the principles of governments have been identified as among 
the first written in the only existing manuscript ( Oeuvres , vol. 3, pp. 
567-576). In addition, there is also some evidence that at the beginning 


of his trip Montesquieu harbored the idea of employment in foreign 

Montesquieu’s first lengthy stop on his trip was in Vienna. There he 
began to keep a diary of his journey; he kept notes on and recorded his 
impressions of the art objects, personalities, and governments he 
encountered, and he kept reminders of books to be bought or people to 
see. The journal still exists for the trip to Italy and Germany, but not for 
the trip to England. In Vienna, he met Prince Eugene of Savoy and 
spent time with his circle, which was notorious for its so-called 
libertines and free-thinkers. In Venice, his next major stop, he sought 
out Antonio Conti, a churchman and one of the most effective 
popularizers of Newton’s theories in Italy. Conti was in close contact 
with the circle of Prince Eugene and with the leading scientists and 
scholars of Italy. Conti, in turn, gave Montesquieu letters of introduc- 
tion to the leading biologists of northern Italy and to the scholars 
Ludovico Muratori, a literary critic and historian of the Italian Middle 
Ages, and Scipione Maffei, a dramatist and classicist. In Naples 
Montesquieu was led to converse with Costantino Grimaldi, an aged 
jurist known for his defenses of Cartesian philosophy and his advocacy 
of the priority of civil over ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Montesquieu’s 
interests in Italy seem to have been in modem thought rather than 
ancient history. 

Montesquieu spent two years in England. This was the England of 
George II, whom Montesquieu first met in Hanover; of Swift, Defoe, 
Pope, and of bitter, violent public discussion and satire; where the 
Whig, Walpole, was the king’s minister and the Tory, Bolingbroke, 
defended Parliament against what was called corruption, that is the 
influence of the king and his minister. British political freedom 
attracted visiting Frenchmen, whereas the disorder of its public debate 
was upsetting to them. Montesquieu’s interests in England seem to 
have been primarily political; he was acquainted with figures on all 
sides of the issues and with the court, and he observed Parliament in 
action. In England he found what was scarcely imaginable in France - a 
politics where the question was the proper understanding of the 
relation, or balance, between the representative Parliament and the 
king, or the king’s minister, and the reigning issue was the constitu- 
tional propriety of the actions of the king and Parliament. 

Montesquieu’s famous description of English politics and of the 
possibility of a government based on separated and balanced powers 



has its source in his observation of this government. His assessment in 
The Spirit of the Laws of the way the balance operated is carefully neutral 
between Walpole, who controlled Parliament through his patronage, 
and Bolingbroke, who disapproved of the minister’s invasion of the 
independence of Parliament: “And, as the executive power, which has 
all the posts at its disposal, could furnish great expectations but not 
fears, all those who would obtain something from it would be inclined 
to move to that side, and it could be attacked by all those who could 
expect nothing from it” ( Spirit of the Laws , 19.27). For the English 
balance of power to work, people must be able to move between 
allegiance to the executive and the legislature. The posts available to 
the executive make that possible. 

The years between 1731, when he returned to France, and 1748, 
when The Spirit of the Laws was finished, were occupied with the serious 
and extensive reading and writing required to produce first his Con- 
siderations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline 
and then The Spirit of the Laws. The quality of Montesquieu’s scholar- 
ship has been a perennial question. Shackleton has traced evidence of 
Montesquieu’s extensive reading in his Pensees, notebooks, and 
journals. The search for sources of his thought is handicapped, 
however, by an excess of evidence. He seems to have read everything. 
In The Spirit of the Laws , Montesquieu cites some 300 works in over 
3,000 references. Muriel Dodds had located many of Montesquieu’s 
references to the travel literature. Iris Cox has investigated the works 
cited in his analysis of French law, concluding that Montesquieu used 
the best sources available to him, critically and with judgment. In our 
experience, if one is attentive to the point Montesquieu is trying to 
make, and to the possibility of irony, his use of his sources is plausible 
and responsible. 

Montesquieu’s life showed little external change during the seven 
years he lived after his great work was completed; he continued to travel 
between La Brede and Paris, to care for his family and estates, and to 
visit with his friends in the “republic of letters.” He wrote the Defense de 
Vesprit des lois, tried to keep his work from being censored by the 
Sorbonne and from being put on the Index, and wrote an article, “Du 
gout,” for the Encyclopedia. In 1755, he died of a fever in Paris, 
confessing and taking communion, but without surrendering his 
papers to the priest. 



The Spirit of the Laws and its reception 

The Spirit of the Laws, in spite of Montesquieu’s request to the contrary, 
has been read piecemeal. As in his life, Montesquieu did not seem to 
require any clear, overt, organizing device. The best analogy for the 
book is the complex mosaic and embroidery of the eighteenth century, 
or even rococo painting. Although there is no over- arching, organizing 
image, there are similarities and contrasts that send the viewer, or 
reader, across the painting, or through the book. The elements that 
have attracted the attention of those who have read and thought about 
Montesquieu are: the law and the spirit of the law; the division of 
governments into republics, monarchies, and despotisms; the notion of 
a free government of divided and balanced powers, and the examina- 
tion of the conditions of the existence of such a government; and the 
distinction between moderate and despotic government. Here, I can 
give only a brief notion of the standing and ramifications of each notion 
and point out the thinkers who have responded to each. 

Montesquieu begins the book with the distinction between the law 
and the spirit of the law. He refuses in effect to use the great organizing 
principle of his predecessors, the natural law - however it was 
understood. As a legal principle, the spirit points away from an 
assessment of individual laws in terms of some universal principle and 
toward some particular, unifying principle. In Book 28 Montesquieu 
takes up the question of the development of civil law in France from the 
time of the conquest by the Germanic tribes through the reign of Saint 
Louis and then forward to Charles VII. This is the kind of material that 
seems to validate the claim of the Enlightenment that the “Middle 
Ages” were a period of senseless barbarism. But Montesquieu finds a 
kind of order in them: “One will perhaps be curious to see the 
monstrous usage of judicial combat reduced to principles and to find 
the body of so singular a jurisprudence. Men who are fundamentally 
reasonable place even their prejudices under rules. Nothing was more 
contrary to common sense than judicial combat, but once this point was 
granted, it was executed with a certain prudence” (28.23). Later, he 
speaks of the spirit of a warrior nation governed solely by the point of 
honor (28.27). The problem in approaching Montesquieu from this 
point of view has always been in ascertaining the kind of thing the spirit 
of a government, or country, is - natural, political, or even divine? 

Montesquieu does offer a typology of government, presenting the 



reader with the distinction between monarchies, despotisms, and 
republics. He distinguishes between the nature of a government, its 
source of rule, and its principle, the passions that keep it going. This 
permits him to make a distinction between monarchy and despotism; 
both are ruled by one person, but in the first the honor of political men 
ensures the rule of law and in the second the fear of the prince is 
virtually the only passion. In monarchies, there is a complicated, even 
confusing, hierarchy of institutions; in despotisms, there is only the 
prince, or his agent, and everyone else. Everyone is a slave, and in effect 
the slave of the prince, who in turn is the slave of his passions. Thus, 
Montesquieu claims that, because of the complex of institutions that do 
or do not support it, the same source of rule can be exercised in such 
different ways that the governments must be said to be different. This 
notion that the kinds of governments are a consequence of the way rule 
is exercised, which in turn is due to the entire complex of political and 
social groupings and institutions, marks a new way of viewing govern- 
ment, which is identified by Durkheim and Raymond Aron as the 
beginning of sociology, although they express their distress at Mon- 
tesquieu’s continued use of political categories. 

However, his first readers in France did not follow him. Dupin 
explicitly objected to this distinction between despotism and 
monarchy, claiming, as is traditional, that the form of a government 
determines its end and the way its people act. He was further horrified 
that it was not the spirit of submission but a monstrous, odious, and 
false notion of a monarchy based on honor that was put forward. 
Voltaire objected that Montesquieu’s distinctions among governments, 
particularly the one between monarchy and despotism, were not 
accurately drawn. They were, he claimed, based on inaccurate infor- 
mation, on mere stories. His view that Montesquieu used his sources 
uncritically became a commonplace. 

In the first eight books, Montesquieu presents a moderate, or 
regular and law-abiding, monarchy. However, the intermediate powers 
that make it a monarchy resemble those of the French - a military 
nobility of the sword, a parliamentary nobility of the robe, and a clergy. 
The suggestion then, is that the moderation of the French monarchy 
was a consquence of its intermediate powers. During both the religious 
wars of the sixteenth century and the wars of the Fronde of the 
seventeenth, the institutions independent of the king defended their 
place in the monarchy. The parliaments pushed their claim to assess 


the appropriateness of new laws issued by the king. Claude de Seyssel 
in La Monarchic de France pictured a monarchy held in check by the 
brakes or reins on the king of religion, justice, and the police (the 
everyday life and habits of a people). But Montesquieu’s notion is that 
the political bodies create ways of acting and thinking, that in a 
monarchy, for example, honor channels and regularizes the actions of a 
king. It does so because each noble conceives of himself as a separately 
responsible political actor, however unfortunate his notion of honor 
may be. Politics in this monarchy is no longer the private business of the 
king, even of a king who must be advised and sometimes curbed. 

Montesquieu offers an explicit discussion of the history and revolu- 
tions of the French monarchy in Books 30 and 31, and thus concludes 
his text with a discussion of the actual condition of France. Here he 
joins the argument over what the constitution of France was or had 
been, if indeed it had had, or still had, a constitution. Each of these 
visions of the constitution and of its history pointed to a different future 
for France, making the discussion of the status of its constitution in 
effect a discussion of the possibilities for change in France. Here one 
can see the beginning of the discussion that led directly to the French 

An informed historical argument had become possible because the 
laws of the Germanic tribes and the practices of the Merovingians and 
Carolingians as well as the Capetians and the Valois had been 
published and edited during the seventeenth century. Henri de 
Boulainvilliers argued that the Frankish king and his nobles conquered 
Gaul and ruled it together as conquerors, but that this noble rule had 
dissolved into despotism. Jean-Baptiste Dubos argued that Clovis, the 
Frankish king, took the place of the Roman emperor and ruled Franks 
and Romans alike, creating a pattern followed by the contemporary 
monarch. Montesquieu argued that there were distinctions among 
both the Franks and the Romans that were worked into the law and 
practice of a new kingdom in a number of different ways. In each case, 
the question was the shape or constitution of the monarchy, that is of 
the relation between the king and the other political bodies, which 
could be identified by a consistent historical practice or development. 
The variety of possible constitutions and revolutions over the course of 
French history makes the very existence of any French constitution 
problematic. Later Mably claimed that there had been no consistent 
relation between the parts of the monarchy: in effect, that there had 


been no constitution for the monarchy. He makes both the king and the 
nobility usurpers at different times, and in so doing he takes Mon- 
tesquieu’s intermediate position one step further and makes an alto- 
gether new start more plausible. 

Marat, in 1785, offered a formal eloge of Montesquieu which praises 
his “delicate satire,” while attributing to him the outrage that was to 
fuel the revolution. He wrote, “he was the first among us to carry the 
torch of philosophy into legislation, to avenge outraged humanity, to 
defend its rights, and in a way, to become the legislator for the whole 
world.” Montesquieu’s own willingness to offer thoughts about legisla- 
tion to the public, rather than to the king, as was proper in the absolute 
monarchy, is taken by Marat as a model not only for statesmen but for 

Republics, in addition to monarchies and despotisms, are the topic 
for the first eight books. These governments, small, pagan, and based 
on slavery, seemed to offer little to eighteenth-century France, but the 
image of political virtue had great charm in spite of Montesquieu’s 
characterization of the environment that a republic required. He 
claimed that republics were based on virtue as a principle, understood 
as love of country. They were maintained by a whole way of life that 
established equality among the citizens and left them little or nothing 
other than that country to love or identify with. Put this way, the virtue 
of Montesquieu’s republican government and the virtue celebrated by 
Rousseau bear a remarkable resemblance. (Rousseau was the secretary 
to Mme. Dupin when she and her husband, the Fermier General, 
wrote, published, and withdrew from publication the first critical 
assessment of The Spirit of the Laws) In each case the passions that 
could be invested in an individual’s well-being are directed toward that 
of the society as a whole; virtue is that single-minded devotion to 

In the United States, Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists took 
seriously Montesquieu’s account of the social conditions that make 
republican government possible. In arguing that Americans ought not 
to take up manufacturing, Jefferson wrote, “It [corruption] is the mark 
set on those, who, not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and 
industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it 
on casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets sub- 
servience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit 
tools for the designs of ambition” (Jefferson, Notes on Virginia (New 



York, 1964), p. 157). The Anti-Federalists worried constantly that the 
proposed new U.S. Constitution did not encourage civic virtue, that it 
both ignored the question of virtue and set up conditions, such as large 
size, complex representation, and encouragement of commerce, that 
positively discouraged the development of such virtue. 

In addition to the paradigms of republics, monarchies, and despot- 
isms, Montesquieu offered the model of a government whose end was 
political liberty, the English government of his time (1 1.6; 19.27). His 
analysis of that liberty and that government affected the way both 
Englishmen and Americans came to think of their political institutions 
and of the social and economic underpinnings of those institutions. 
According to Montesquieu, political liberty is the result of the separa- 
tion of powers. In England, the orders of the old regime, commons, 
lords, and king, each take up a function in the new division of rule into 
legislative and executive functions, with the judicial function set aside 
in juries. The functions of government are not entirely separated, as 
each branch participates to some extent in the task of the others, 
making the balance a result of an interaction between the branches. 
However, the question remains of the separation of the three orders. 
That is, does the king properly have some part in the choice of 
members of Parliament? Is the king, or his minister in Parliament, the 
executive, and what is the meaning of that term? Is it proper to dilute 
the old nobility by creating new nobles? Montesquieu is quoted 
approvingly by both Blackstone and Burke. Blackstone defends the 
separation of powers in their sources, while Burke is quite willing to 
find reasons for all the ways of electing members of Parliament that 
made it possible for the executive to have some control over them. Still, 
for Blackstone and Burke, as for Montesquieu, the structure of the 
government itself, not some appeal to first principles, is the defense of 

In France, during and after the French Revolution, Montesquieu’s 
concern to balance power led to the question of whether there 
remained any independent political body, king, or noble, that could be 
used to moderate the sovereignty of the people. Burke, a careful 
student of Montesquieu, berated the French in his Reflections on the 
Revolution in France for not attaching themselves to the institutions of 
their old regime, as the English had. Tocqueville replied that those 
institutions were no longer viable in France. Using Montesquieu’s 
analysis of monarchy, he offered the argument that the loss of 



this criticism of the absolute monarchy was more influential than 
Montesquieu’s analysis of the moderate monarchy. In Democracy in 
America , Tocqueville seems to have patterned his despotic democracy 
after Montesquieu’s despotic king. But there the character of the ruler 
and the people became identical, leading to a new quiet, calm despot- 
ism. Tocqueville suspected that Madison’s infinitely divided, shapeless 
population was inherently despotic and that the formal governmental 
institutions of the Federal government and even of the state govern- 
ments could not teach the use of political freedom. Rather he sought 
out the equivalent of Montesquieu’s intermediate institutions within 
the society, finding local governments, voluntary associations, and 
religious and familial habits and practices that shaped free democratic 

In turning his attention to the principles of a variety of governments 
and to the social, economic, and historical foundations of each, 
Montesquieu turned his readers away from the consideration of 
political right and toward an analysis of how to make particular 
governments work. Readers were directed to think of the possibilities — 
to become a small republic like those of the ancients, a monarchy with 
ranks and orders, a free government of divided powers, or a despotism 
of one or many. Each government, other than the despotisms, is a 
particular arrangement of equalities and inequalities. Montesquieu’s 
thought has been most carefully attended to by those who, like the 
members of the provincial French academies of his time, tried to use 
institutional structures to work out a balance. Montesquieu’s perspi- 
cacity about the possibilities for such balances and the reasons they are 
essential for any decent politics has made and continues to make him 
worth reading. 

Anne M. Cohler 
Chicago , Illinois 


Principal events in Montesquieu’s life 

1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the end of French toleration 
for Protestantism. 

1688 Glorious revolution in England. 

1689 Montesquieu was bom, January 18, at the Chateau of La 

1700 Montesquieu went to College de Juilly. 

1708 Montesquieu studied law in Bordeaux and Paris. 

1713 The Papal Bull Unigenitus was promulgated condemning some 
propositions from P. Quesnel’s Reflexions morales , and thus 
supporting the Jesuits at the expense of the Jansenists. 

1714 Montesquieu became a Counsellor in the Parlement of 

1715 Montesquieu married Jeanne Lartique, a Protestant; they had 
three children. 

Louis XIV died. 

1716 Montesquieu became a member of the Academy of Bordeaux 
and, when his uncle died, inherited the barony of Montesquieu 
and became President a Mortier in the Parlement of Bordeaux. 

1721 The Persian Letters was published, anonymously. 

1725 Montesquieu published Le Temple de Gnide , anonymously, and 
sold a life interest in his presidence. 

1728 Montesquieu was elected to the French Academy and set out on 
trip to Germany, Italy, and England. 

1729 Montesquieu traveled to England. 

173 1 Montesquieu returned to France. 


Principal events in Montesquieu ’s life 

1734 Publication of the Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of 
the Romans and their Decline. 

1747 Montesquieu’s son refused to take up the Presidence and it was 
sold altogether. 

1 748 Publication of The Spirit of the Laws. 

1750 Publication of the Defense de Vesprit des lois. 

Thomas Nugent published an English translation of The Spirit of 
the Laws. 

175 1-1765 Diderot and d’Alembert edit the Encyclopedia. 

1751 The Spirit of the Laws was put on the Index. 

Rousseau published the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences. 

1754 Montesquieu wrote the Essay on Taste, which appeared in the 

Rousseau published the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality. 

1 755 Montesquieu died in Paris of a fever. 

1757 A new, revised edition of The Spirit of the Laws was published 
under the direction of Montesquieu’s son from notes left by 
Montesquieu at his death. 

1771 Maupeou dissolved the parlements and substituted another 
system of courts, whose members were to be appointed. The 
parlements were reestablished when Louis XVI became king in 
1774. This is often used as a date to mark the beginning of the 
pre-revolutionary thrust in French history. 


Bibliographical note 

For a general introduction to eighteenth-century France, Alfred 
Cobban, A History of Modem France , vol. i and The Old Regime and the 
French Revolution., ed. Keith Michael Baker, vol. 7 of Readings in Western 
Civilization (Chicago, 1987) serve admirably. William Doyle, The 
Parlement of Bordeaux and the End of the Old Regime (New York, 1974) 
and Daniel Roche, Le Siecle des lumi'eres en Province (Paris, 1978) 
provide a picture of provincial life before the revolution. The collected 
essays in The Political Culture of the Old Regime , ed. Keith Michael Baker 
(Oxford, 1987) give an idea of contemporary historians’ assessment of 
this period. The references are extremely useful. 

The standard reference for Montesquieu’s biography is Robert 
Shackleton, Montesquieu (Oxford, 1961). Jean Starobinski’s little book 
Montesquieu (Paris, 1979) collects the autobiographical information 
and has wonderful pictures. Judith N. Shklar, Montesquieu (Oxford, 
1987) presents yet another version of Montesquieu’s personality and 
work. Jean Dalat, Montesquieu magistrat, Archives des lettres modemes, ns. 
132, 139 and Jean Dalat , Montesquieu, chef defamille. Archives des lettres 
modemes , n. 217, give a closer view of Montesquieu’s actual activities 
than was previously available. 

Nannerl O. Keohane, Philosophy and the State in France (Princeton, 
1980), sees Montesquieu in the light of earlier French constitutionalist 
thought. Franklin Ford, Robe and Sword (New York, 1965) identifies 
Montesquieu with the parliamentary revolt, and A. Lloyd Moote, The 
Revolt of the fudges, the Parlement of Paris and the Fronde, 1643-1652 
(Princeton, 1971) gives a good notion of the way the parliamentarians 
thought. E. Carcassone, Montesquieu et le probleme de la constitution 

Bibliographical note 

franqaise au XVIIIe si'ecle (Paris, 1927) places Montesquieu within 
eighteenth -century constitutionalism. 

H. Roddier, “De la composition deLEsprit des Lois'. Montesquieu et 
les Oratorien de L’Academie de Juilly,” Revue d’histoire litteraire de la 
France, 52 (1952) connects Montesquieu’s use of historical sources to 
the way he was taught. The essays in the Oeuvres completes de Mon- 
tesquieu (Paris, 1950-1954) are also useful. There are three books 
which take particular topics and try and assess Montesquieu’s use of 
his sources: Iris Cox, Montesquieu and the History of French Lam 
(Oxford, 1 983); Muriel Dodds, Les Recits de voyages: sources de L Esprit 
des lois de Montesquieu (Paris, 1929); and Catherine Volpilhac-Auger, 
Tacite et Montesquieu (Oxford, 1985). Franqois Furet and Mona Ouzuf, 
“Two Historical Legitimations of Eighteenth-Century French 
Society: Mably and Boulainvilliers,” in Franqois Furet, In the Workshop 
of History (Chicago, 1985) helps place the final historical chapters in 

For accounts of Montesquieu and English politics see: J. Dedieu, 
Montesquieu et la tradition anglaise en France (Paris, 1909); F. T. H. 
Fletcher, Montesquieu and English Politics (Philadelphia, 1 980, reprint 
of 1939 edn);John Plamenatz,Afa« and Society (Harlow, Essex, 1963), 
vol. 1, pp. 284-291; and C. P. Courtney, Montesquieu and Burke 
(Oxford, 1963). 

Emile Durkheim, Montesquieu and Rousseau: Forerunners of Sociology 
(Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1965); Raymond Aron, “Montesquieu,” in 
Main Currents in Sociological Thought (New York, 1965), pp. 11-56; 
Louis Althusser, Politics and History (London, 1972), pp. 12-109; an d 
Henry J. Merry, Montesquieu’s System of Natural Government (W. 
Lafayette, Indiana, 1970) take Montesquieu as the beginning of 
modern sociology and history. For David Carrithers, in “Mon- 
tesquieu’s Philosophy of History,” Journal of History of Ideas (1986), 
pp. 61-80 the question is the way Montesquieu looked for underlying 
causes in history. Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests 
(Princeton, N.J., 1977), pp. 70-80 connects Montesquieu to the 
development of economic thought. 

Destutt de Tracey,/! Commentary and Review of Montesquieu ’$ “ Spirit 
of the Laws”, tr. Thomas Jefferson (New York, 1969, reprinted from 
1 81 1 edn), Mark Waddicor, Montesquieu and the Philosophy of Natural 
Law (The Hague, 1970), and Thomas L. Pangle, Montesquieu ’s Philo- 
sophy of Liberalism (Chicago, 1974) have placed Montesquieu’s book 


Bibliographical note 

within the tradition of natural law, or right, as they understand it. For 
an assessment see Bernard Manin, “Montesquieu et la politique 
modeme,” Cahiers de Philosophic Politique , n. 2-3, and Michael A. 
Mosher, “The Particulars of a Universal Politics: Hegel’s Adaptation 
of Montesquieu’s Typology,” American Political Science Review (1984), 
pp. 179-188. 

Another approach explores the patterns of overlapping categories 
and concerns: Georges Benrekassa, Montesquieu (Paris, 1968); Anne 
M. Cohler, Montesquieu ’s Comparative Politics and the Spirit of American 
Constitutionalism (Kansas, 1988); Suzanne Gearhart, The Open Boun- 
dary of History and Fiction (Princeton, 1 984); Bernard Groethuysen, 
Philosophic de la Revolution Franqaise precede de Montesquieu (Paris, 
1956); Mark Hulliung, Montesquieu and the Old Regime (Berkeley, 
California, 1976); Catherine Larrere, “Les Typologies des govern- 
ments chez Montesquieu,” in Etudes sur le XVIIIe Siecle (Clermont, 
1 979); Jacques Proust, L’Objet et le texte, pour une poetique de la prose 
franqaise du XVIIIe siecle (Geneve, 1980); Paul Verniere, Montesquieu et 
Tesprit des lois ou la Raison impure (Paris, 1977). 


Translators’ preface 

The Spirit of the Laws offers a genial surface that carries the reader from 
one idea to the next; its array of paradoxes, anecdotes, metaphors, witty 
phrases and saillies, which leads the reader deeper into the text, also 
amuses. As much as possible of this civilized surface with its light 
touches is retained here, permitting Montesquieu to help the reader 
even through the English translation. In Montesquieu’s apparent 
digressions the reader often finds echoes or applications of general 
principles Montesquieu has already enunciated, sometimes several 
hundred pages earlier. With this in mind, we have, as often as 
practicable, chosen the language of each part of the translation in terms 
of the entire book rather than in terms of the more limited context of 
the paragraph or chapter. This results in a stabilized core of 
terminology, which conveys some of the resonance of the original text. 

Although in the Foreword to the Spirit of the Laws Montesquieu says 
that he has had to find new words or give new meanings to old ones, it is 
the conservatism of his vocabulary that is striking. Though he plays 
with the varied meanings of vertu, “virtue,’ 'principe, “principle,” esprit, 
“spirit,” and constitution, “constitution,” he does so against a back- 
ground of rigorously correct French usage. In Considerations on the 
Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, Sainte-Beuve 
observes that Montesquieu “excels in returning expressions to all their 
primitive strength, which permits his style to be both succinct and 
strong, and to appear simple.” Accordingly, we have respected Mon- 
tesquieu’s use of various distinctions, for instance between prononcer, 
“to pronounce,” and statuer, “to enact,” between peine, “penalty,” and 
supplice, “punishment,” between ville, “town,” and cite, “city.” 


Translators ’ preface 

The greatest problems for the translators were presented by those 
French words whose broad meaning is not easily rendered into modem 
English. We have had to translate affaires as “business,” “public 
business,” “affairs,” “public affairs,” and even “suits” and “law suits;” 
but we have been able to maintain biens as “goods.” We use “right” for 
droit , “law” for loi, and “money” for monnaie, all terms whose meanings 
have changed over time and have been the subject of much discussion. 
The translators’ notes are largely concerned with these problems. 

Montesquieu’s discussion of feudal law raises the additional ques- 
tion of the difference between feudal French and feudal English 
institutions. Once the threshold of simple equivalents is passed with 
seigneur, “lord,” comte, “county,” and prince, “prince,” modem English 
words tend to be inseparable from the English institutions to which 
they refer. Such words as fisc, cens, and police, which can be translated as 
“exchequer,” “head-tax,” and “administration,” are rendered here by 
the more literal, if obsolete, English forms, “fisc,” “census,” and 
“police.” The very obsoleteness of the terms will remind the reader 
that these institutions and categories differ from the English ones. 

Paragraph divisions and virtually all the sentences are divided as they 
are in our French text. Where there are curiosities - for example, 
capital letters following a colon, or question-marks followed by a 
lower-case letter - we have followed the punctuation rather than the 
capitalization when possible. Within the sentences we have altered the 
punctuation to conform with English usage. We have kept as much of 
the structure of the sentences as is compatible with readable English 
and have used the first person when it appears in the text. 

The first edition of The Spirit of the Laws was published in 1 748 
under the supervision of Jacob Vernet in Geneva. In 1749 an edition 
was published with some minor revisions and a map. In 1750 another 
edition was published with some additional corrections and the division 
into six parts that had been left out of the first edition. A version with a 
few substantial revisions and a new Author’s Foreword appeared in 
1757 as a separate volume and in 1758 as a part of a complete works. 
This version was published by Richer under the directions of Mon- 
tesquieu’s son from notes for a new edition left at Montesquieu’s death 
in 1755 ( Oeuvres , vol. 3, pp. 691-692). For the preparation of this 
translation, as there is no critical edition of the Spirit of the Laws, we 
used the text of the facsimile edition of the Oeuvres completes of 1758, 
Oeuvres completes de Montesquieu , ed. Andre Masson (Paris, Nagel, 


Translators ’ preface 

1950-1955), vol. 1. We have taken the liberty of returning the 
Invocation to the Muses, which appears in the Masson edition immedi- 
ately following the editor’s introduction, to its original place at the 
opening of Book 20, and of reintroducing the division into six parts. 

The only other translation of the entire book, by Thomas Nugent, 
was first published in 1750. Although it was based on the first edition, 
some of the later changes were incorporated in later editions of the 
translation. We have profited from Nugent’s grasp of eighteenth- 
century French and have been immensely grateful to have had a 
predecessor with whom we could argue. 

Montesquieu’s text also contains some 2,000 footnotes. It has 
seemed appropriate to present his documentation in a format acces- 
sible to the modem reader. Our aim has been to make it possible for the 
specialist and non -specialist alike to evaluate Montesquieu’s use of 
evidence. Montesquieu’s references can be grouped under four 
general headings: (1) references to the classical texts of the Greeks and 
Romans; (2) to Roman law; (3) to the laws, law codes and public 
documents of the barbarian tribes and the French monarchy, primarily 
in the early Middle Ages; (4) to the travel literature which he consulted 
for information about contemporary non-European cultures. 

For the first category, whereas Montesquieu refers to classical texts 
with book and chapter numbers, or with page numbers to editions 
which are no longer in print, we have used the present-day standard 
form. When a classical text may prove difficult to locate, the specific 
edition used is identified; otherwise we have relied on the Oxford, 
Loeb, or Teubner edition. For the second, Montesquieu refers to the 
laws in the Roman law codes by title. Although this is an efficient and 
elegant system of reference, it may put off a reader without Latin. We 
have identified, therefore, the name of the law-code and the book, title, 
law (imperial rescripts, extracts from the classical jurists), and 
paragraph numbers. For the third, while Montesquieu used the best 
editions available in his time for citations of the law codes of the 
barbarians, and of those of the Middle Ages, these are no longer in 
print. They have been superseded by texts prepared under the auspices 
of the Monumenta Germaniae historica. References are traced to this 
work since these volumes represent the best modern editions. Finally, 
in respect to the travel literature, as a number of these works have been 
republished in this century, we have used them whenever possible; 
otherwise, we have attempted to find the most recent printing. 


Translators ’ preface 

All information appearing in brackets in the footnotes is that of the 
translators. We have preserved the original information of Mon- 
tesquieu’s citations, adding full author and title where needed. 
Although there are often incongruities between the numbers in Mon- 
tesquieu’s citations and those in our own, these differences should not 
be interpreted as his errors. They reflect typographical mistakes, 
differences in editions, changes in the form of citation, etc. Factual 
errors and incorrect citations are indicated. These instances are rare. 
Montesquieu was scrupulous about his references. 

In earlier editions, many errors in the printing of the documentation 
resulted from the confusion, or transposition, of roman and arabic 
numerals. Mindful of this, and despite certain traditional forms of 
citation, we have used arabic numerals for all the numbers in the notes, 
except when roman numerals identify specific pages, as in a preface. 

Our additions to the footnotes follow two basic forms. The first is for 
classical texts and for works for which there exists a specific standard 
form of citation. Each element of the citation - book number, chapter 
or title number, sentence or line number - is set off by a period. The 
second form of citation is to a particular edition; these citations contain 
three elements, each set off by semicolons. The first element contains 
information such as book, part, or chapter number, and the title of a 
specific section is given where it may be helpful in locating the 
information in a different edition. The second element contains 
volume and page number, separated by a comma, for the edition cited. 
The third and last element identifies the specific edition. 

A bibliography follows the translation. When the form of citation 
differs from that of the National Union Catalog, the form of the 
National Union Catalog main entry appears in parentheses. The 
author’s name and the title as they appear in the footnotes correspond 
to their form in the Bibliography. Montesquieu gallicized names and 
followed the convention of citing all books by a French title, whether or 
not the one he used was in French. It is often clear that Montesquieu in 
fact was referring to a Latin, and sometimes even to an English, 

Evidence cited by Montesquieu in Latin, Italian, and Old French 
has been translated; we indicate in brackets the language of the original 
when it is not French (e.g. [O.F.], [L.]). Translation of the Medieval 
Latin and Old French presents special problems because the meaning 
of certain phrases and words remains uncertain. Montesquieu appears 


Translators ’ preface 

to recognize these difficulties, for he leaves certain phrases in the 
original in the footnote while translating the rest into French, or omits 
words and phrases when offering a translation in the text of a quotation 
in a footnote. Since Montesquieu’s time much substantial scholarship 
has grown up around these problems and frequently their interpreta- 
tion has remained controversial. In our translations we attempt to find a 
middle ground between intelligibility and the real opaqueness of 
certain of his citations. 

We wish to thank those who have helped us with this project. The 
work could not have beerLdone. without the assistance of the staff of the 
research collections of the Newberry Library, Regenstein Library of 
the University of Chicago, the libraries of Northwestern University, 
and the libraries of Harvard University. Both the Bibliotheque 
Nationale and the British Library were helpful to visiting strangers. 
The ARTFL Project at the University of Chicago has provided us 
with periodic reassurance as to our accuracy. We are especially grateful 
for the support given Harold Stone by the National Endowment for the 
Humanities, the Travel to Collections Program of the Division of 
Research Programs, for work on the project of completing the 
documentation. We are immensely grateful for the generosity of our 
friends in Hyde Park, at the University of Chicago, at Shimer College, 
and Colgate University. They have put their learning at our disposal. 
Thanks again to Mary Hynes-Berry, Joan Grimbert, and George 
Anastaplo. Keith Baker and Charles Grey have invited us to their 
seminars and workshops; they, their students, and colleagues have 
given us an education in eighteenth-century history. To Keith Baker 
we are particularly indebted for the encouragement and assistance that 
has brought this project to a successful conclusion. Our friends and 
families have been generous enough not to enquire too often when our 
project would be completed. We, of course, bear the responsibility for 
the final product. 

Anne M. Cohler 

B asi a C . Miller 
Harold S. Stone 



Cass. Dio 
Dion. Hal. 

Ant. Rom. 








LL. Form. 
LL. Nat. 

SS. Lang. 
SS. Merov. 

Migne PG 
Migne PL 



Cassius Dio Cocceianus 

Capitularia regum Francorum (part of MGH series) 
Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae 
Dionysius of Halicarnassus 
Antiquitates Romanae 

F. Jacoby, Fragmenta der greichischen Historiker 
S. Riccobono, Fontes iuris Romani Antelustiniani 

Livy, Ab urbe condita 

Monumenta Germaniae historica 
Auctorum antiquissimiorum 
Epistolae Karolini aevi 
Leges (series in folio) 

Legum sectio V. Formulae 

Legum sectio /. Leges nationum Germanicarum 


Scriptorum rerum Langobardicarum 
Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum 
Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 
Migne, Patrologiae Cursus, series Graeca 
Migne, Patrologiae Cursus, series Latina 
Old French 
Aristotle, Politics 
Plutarch, Vitae parallelae 

For an explanation of the abbreviations used with Leges Langobardorum and 
Jean Baptiste Du Halde’s Description de VEmpire de la Chine etdela Tartarie 
Chinoise consult the entries in the bibliography. 


Author’s foreword 

In order to understand the first four books of this work, one must note 
that what I call virtue in a republic is love of the homeland, that is, love 
of equality." It is not a moral virtue or a Christian virtue; it is political 
virtue, and this is the spring that makes republican government move, 
as honor is the spring that makes monarchy move. Therefore, I have 
called love of the homeland and of equality, political virtue. I have had 
new ideas; new words have had to be found or new meanings given to 
old ones. Those who have not understood this have made me say 
absurdities that would be outrageous in every country in the world, 
because in every country in the world morality is desired. 

2. It should be observed that there is a very great difference between 
saying that a certain quality, modification of the soul, or virtue is not the 
spring that makes a government act and saying that it is not present in 
that government. If I were to say that a certain wheel, a certain gear, is 
not the spring that makes this watch move, would one conclude that it is 
not present in the watch? Far from excluding moral and Christian 
virtues, monarchy does not even exclude political virtue. In a word, 
honor is in the republic though political virtue is its spring; political 
virtue is in the monarchy though honor is its spring. 

Finally, the good man discussed in Book 3, chapter 5, is not the 
Christian good man, but the political good man, who has the political 
virtue I have mentioned. He is the man who loves the laws of his 

in the translators’ notes, references such as 3.4 are 
to books and chapters in The Spirit of the Lam. 

'The Foreword was first printed in the 1757 edition. 

Author's foreword, 

country and who acts from love of the laws of his country. I have put all 
these matters in a new light in the present edition by further specifying 
the ideas, and in most places where I have used the word virtue , I have 
written political virtue. 



If, among the infinite number of things in this book, there is any that, 
contrary to my expectations" might give offense, at least there is none 
that has been put here with ill intent. By nature, I have not at all a 
censorious spirit. Plato thanked heaven that he was born in Socrates’ 
time, and as for me, I am grateful that heaven had me born in the 
government in which I live and that it wanted me to obey those whom it 
had me love. 

I ask a favor that I fear will not be granted; it is that one not judge by a 
moment’s reading the work of twenty years, that one approve or 
condemn the book as a whole and not some few sentences. If one wants 
to seek the design of the author, one can find it only in the design of the 

I began by examining men, and I believed that, amidst the infinite 
diversity of laws and mores, they were not led by their fancies alone. 

I have set down the principles, and I have seen particular cases 
conform to them as if by themselves, the histories of all nations being 
but their consequences, and each particular law connecting with 
another law or dependent on a more general one. 

When I turned to antiquity, I sought to capture its spirit in order not 
to consider as similar those cases with real differences or to overlook 
differences in those that appear similar. 

I did not draw my principles from my prejudices but from the nature 
of things. 

°In Montesquieu espoir usually implies the concreteness of “expect” more than the 
wishfulness of “hope,” so we have translated it consistently as “expect” and 
“expectation” rather than “hope” in order to avoid interpreting the standing of the 
hope or expectation. 



Many of the truths will make themselves felt here only when one sees 
the chain connecting them with others. The more one reflects on the 
details, the more one will feel the certainty of the principles. As for the 
details, I have not given them all, for who could say everything without 
being tedious? 

The sallies 4, that seem to characterize present-day works will not be 
found here. As soon as matters are seen from a certain distance, such 
sallies vanish; they usually arise only because the mind attaches itself to 
a single point and forsakes all others. 

I do not write to censure that which is established in any country 
whatsoever. Each nation will find here the reasons for its maxims, and 
the consequence will naturally be drawn from them that changes can be 
proposed only by those who are bom fortunate enough to fathom by a 
stroke of genius the whole of a state’s constitution. 

It is not a matter of indifference that the people be enlightened. The 
prejudices of magistrates began as the prejudices of the nation. In a 
time of ignorance, one has no doubts even while doing the greatest 
evils; in an enlightened age, one trembles even while doing the greatest 
goods. One feels the old abuses and sees their correction, but one also 
sees the abuses of the correction itself. One lets an ill remain if one 
fears something worse; one lets a good remain if one is in doubt about a 
better. One looks at the parts only in order to judge the whole; one 
examines all the causes in order to see the results. 

If I could make it so that everyone had new reasons for loving his 
duties, his prince, his homeland and his laws and that each could better 
feel his happiness in his own country, government, and position, I 
would consider myself the happiest of mortals. 

If I could make it so that those who command increased their 
knowledge of what they should prescribe and that those who obey 
found a new pleasure in obeying, I would consider myself the happiest 
of mortals. 

I would consider myself the happiest of mortals if I could make it so 
that men were able to cure themselves of their prejudices. Here I call 
prejudices not what makes one unaware of certain things but what 
makes one unaware of oneself. 

By seeking to instruct men one can practice the general virtue that 
includes love of all. Man, that flexible being who adapts himself in 

b traits saillants. These traits are prominent features, as in architecture, not witticisms. 



society to the thoughts and impressions of others, is equally capable of 
knowing his own nature when it is shown to him, and of losing even the 
feeling of it when it is concealed from him. 

Many times I began this work and many times abandoned it; a 
thousand times I cast to the winds the pages I had written; 1 every day I 
felt my paternal hands drop; 2 1 followed my object without forming a 
design; I knew neither rules nor exceptions; I found the truth only to 
lose it. But when I discovered my principles, all that I had sought came 
to me, and in the course of twenty years, I saw my work begin, grow, 
move ahead, and end. 

If this work meets with success, I shall owe much of it to the majesty 
of my subject; still, I do not believe that I have totally lacked genius. 
When I have seen what so many great men in France, England, and 
Germany have written before me, I have been filled with wonder, but I 
have not lost courage. “And I too am a painter,” 3 have I said with 

'“A sport to the winds” [L.] [Vergil, Aetteid 6.75]. 

2 “Twice the paternal hand had fallen” [L.J [Vergil, Aeneid 6.33]. 

3 “And I too am a painter” [I.]. [An apocryphal remark attributed to Correggio on seeing, in 
1515, Raphael’s St. Cecilia ; the story was first published by Sebastiano Resta, a 
seventeenth-century Italian writer on art.] 



Figure i 


Part 1 

jfe dks. dk. & & dtc. dk dk dk dk dk dk ife ife jfe .sfe. .&. dk jfe. jfe .sfe afe dk afe 4fc dk 



On laws in general 


On laws in their relation with the various beings 

Laws, taken in the broadest meaning, are the necessary relations 
deriving from the nature of things; and in this sense, all beings have 
their laws: the divinity 1 has its laws, the material world has its laws, the 
intelligences superior to man have their laws, the beasts have their laws, 
man has his laws. 

Those who have said that a blind fate has produced all the effects that we 
see in the world have said a great absurdity; for what greater absurdity is 
there than a blind fate that could have produced intelligent beings? 

There is, then, a primitive ' 1 reason; and laws are both the relations 
that exist between it and the different beings, and the relations of these 
various beings to each other. 

God is related to the universe, as creator and preserver; the laws 
according to which he created are those according to which he 
preserves; he acts according to these rules because he knows them; he 
knows them because he made them; he made them because they are 
related to his wisdom* and his power. 

As we see that the world, formed by the motion of matter and devoid 
of intelligence, still continues to exist, its motions must have invariable 
laws; and, if one could imagine another world than this, it would have 
consistent' rules or it would be destroyed. 

'“The law,” Plutarch says in [Moralia]Adprincipem ineruditum [780c], “is the queen of all, 
mortal and immortal.” [Plutarch is quoting Pindar, fragment 169 (151).] 

“We have rendered Montesquieu’s primitive as “primitive,” thus retaining the distinc- 
tion between that term and premier , “first,” which is used repeatedly in 1.2. 

*We have translated sage and its various forms with “wise” and its various forms. The 
meaning is generally prudence, calm, sobriety. 

'Montesquieu uses constant, constamment , and Constance to refer both to a fixed rule and 


Part i 

Thus creation, which appears to be an arbitrary act, presupposes 
rules as invariable as the fate claimed by atheists. It would be absurd to 
say that the creator, without these rules, could govern the world, since 
the world would not continue to exist without them. 

These rules are a consistently established relation. Between one 
moving body and another moving body, it is in accord with relations of 
mass and velocity that all motions are received, increased, diminished, 
or lost; every diversity is uniformity , every change is consistency. d 

Particular intelligent beings can have laws that they have made, but 
they also have some that they have not made. Before there were 
intelligent beings, they were possible; therefore, they had possible 
relations and consequently possible laws. Before laws were made, there 
were possible relations of justice/ To say that there is nothing just or 
unjust but what positive laws ordain or prohibit is to say that before a 
circle was drawn, all its radii were not equal. 

Therefore, one must admit that there are relations of faimess / prior 
to the positive law that establishes them, so that, for example, assuming 
that there were societies of men, it would be just to conform to their 
laws; so that, if there were intelligent beings that had received some 
kindness from another being, they ought to be grateful for it;* so that, if 
one intelligent being had created another intelligent being, the created 
one ought to remain in its original dependency; so that one intelligent 
being who has done harm to another intelligent being deserves the 
same harm in return, and so forth. 

But the intelligent world is far from being as well governed as the 
physical world. For, though the intelligent world also has laws that are 
invariable by their nature, unlike the physical world, it does not follow 
its laws consistendy. The reason for this is that particular intelligent 
beings are limited by their nature and are consequendy subject to error; 
furthermore, it is in their nature to act by themselves. Therefore, they 

to multiple actions that conform to the rule. We have chosen to translate them by 
“consistent” and “consistency,” which have both of these implications. 

J Here translating Constance as “consistency” conveys the meaning of changing accord- 
ing to a rule, as “constancy” with its static implication would not. See note *, above. 

'Here Montesquieu takes advantage of the range of meaning of the Frenchyasfe’, which 
includes both the notion of “correct” and that of “just.” It leads him to the arithmetic 
notion of justice in the next paragraph. 

1 Equite is translated throughout as “fairness,” because it implies a much wider sphere 
than the English term “equity” with its almost exclusively legal implications. Here 
Montesquieu’s equite reminds the reader of the egal, “equal,” at the end of the 
preceding sentence and of the arithmetic relation. 

g avoirdela reconnaissance. See 31.33 (note q , bk. 31). 


On laws in general 

do not consistently follow their primitive laws or even always follow the 
laws they give themselves. 

It is not known whether beasts are governed by the general laws of 
motion or by a movement particular to themselves. Be that as it may, 
they do not have a more intimate relation with god A than the rest of the 
material world has, and feeling is useful to them only in their relation to 
one another, either with other particular beings, or with themselves.' 

By the attraction of pleasure they preserve their particular being; by 
the same attraction they preserve their species. They have natural laws 
because they are united by feeling; they have no positive laws because 
they are not united by knowledge. Still, they do not invariably follow 
their natural laws; plants, in which we observe neither knowledge nor 
feeling, better follow their natural laws. 

Beasts do not have the supreme advantages that we have; they have 
some that we do not have. They do not have our expectations/ but they 
do not have our fears; they suffer death as we do, but without 
recognizing it; most even preserve themselves better than we do and do 
not make such bad use of their passions. 

Man, as a physical being, is governed by invariable laws like other 
bodies. As an intelligent being, he constantly violates the laws god has 
established and changes those he himself establishes; he must guide 
himself, and yet he is a limited being; he is subject to ignorance and 
error, as are all finite intelligences; he loses even the imperfect 
knowledge he has. As a feeling creature, he falls subject to a thousand 
passions. Such a being could at any moment forget his creator; god has 
called him back to him by the laws of religion. Such a being could at any 
moment forget himself; philosophers have reminded him of himself by 
the laws of morality. Made for living in society, he could forget his 
fellows; legislators have returned him to his duties by political and civil 

^Montesquieu never capitalizes dieu, “god.” 

'dans le rapport qu 'dies onl entre dies, ou avecd'autres etres particuliers, ou avec dles-mbnes. 

The middle term was added after 1748. This addition suggests that the meaning is 
that relations among animals may be either with members of other species or with 
other members of their own species. 

-'Whether men’s having purposes beyond those of the animals leads to hopes or 
expectations is, of course, not clear from the French. (See note “ in Preface.) 


Part i 


On the laws of nature 

Prior to all these laws are the laws of nature, so named because they 
derive uniquely from the constitution of our being. To know them well, 
one must consider a man before the establishment of societies. The 
laws he would receive in such a state will be the laws of nature. 

The law that impresses on us the idea of a creator and thereby leads 
us toward him is the first of the natural lam in importance, though not 
first in the order of these laws. A man in the state of nature would have 
the faculty of knowing rather than knowledge. It is clear that his first 
ideas would not be speculative ones; he would think of the preservation 
of his being before seeking the origin of his being. Such a man would at 
first feel only his weakness; his timidity would be extreme: and as for 
evidence, if it is needed on this point, savages have been found in 
forests ; 2 everything makes them tremble, everything makes them flee. 

In this state, each feels himself inferior; he scarcely feels himself an 
equal. Such men would not seek to attack one another, and peace 
would be the first natural law. 

Hobbes gives men first the desire to subjugate one another, but this 
is not reasonable. The idea of empire and domination is so complex 
and depends on so many other ideas, that it would not be the one they 
would first have. 

Hobbes asks, If men are not naturally in a state of war, why do they 
always cany arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors ? k But one 
feels that what can happen to men only after the establishment of 
societies, which induced them to find motives for attacking others and 
for defending themselves, is attributed to them before that 

Man would add the feeling of his needs to the feeling of his 
weakness. Thus another natural law would be the one inspiring him to 
seek nourishment. 

I have said that fear would lead men to flee one another, but the 
marks of mutual fear would soon persuade them to approach one 

1 Witness the savage who was found in the forests of Hanover and who lived in England in 
the reign of George 1. 

*See Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, bk. i, chap. 13 . 


On laws in general 

another. They would also be so inclined by the pleasure one animal 
feels at the approach of an animal of its own kind. In addition, the 
charm that the two sexes inspire in each other by their difference would 
increase this pleasure, and the natural entreaty' they always make to one 
another would be a third law. 

Besides feelings, which belong to men from the outset, they also 
succeed in gaining knowledge; thus they have a second bond, which 
other animals do not have. Therefore, they have another motive for 
uniting, and the desire to live in society is a fourth natural law. 

' priere . 


On positive laws 

As soon as men are in society, they lose their feeling of weakness; the 
equality that was among them ceases, and the state of war begins. 

Each particular society comes to feel its strength, producing a state 
of war among nations. The individuals within each society begin to feel 
their strength; they seek to turn their favor the principal advantages of 
this society, which brings about a state of war among them. 

These two sorts of states of war bring about the establishment of laws 
among men. Considered as inhabitants of a planet so large that 
different peoples are necessary, they have laws bearing on the relation 
that these peoples have with one another, and this is the right of 
nations.”* Considered as living in a society that must be maintained, 
they have laws concerning the relation between those who govern and 
those who are governed, and this is the political right." 
Further, they have laws concerning the relation that all citizens have 
with one another, and this is the civil right. 

The right of nations is by nature founded on the principle that the 
various nations should do to one another in times of peace the most 
good possible, and in times of war the least ill possible, without harming 
their true interests. 

le droit des gens is translated “right of nations” throughout. 

"We have translated droit as “right” and loi as “law.” Although the French droit is 
usually closer to the meaning of “law” in English, we have kept Montesquieu’s usage 
so that his distinction and his version of the changes in meaning would not be 


Part i 

The object of war is victory; of victory, conquest; of conquest, 
preservation. All the laws that form the right of nations should derive 
from this principle and the preceding one. 

All nations have a right of nations; and even the Iroquois, who eat 
their prisoners, have one. They send and receive embassies; they know 
rights of war and peace: the trouble is that their right of nations is not 
founded on true principles. 

In addition to the right of nations, which concerns all societies, there 
is a political right for each one. A society could not continue to exist 
without a government. “The union of all individual strengths,” as Gravina 
aptly says, “forms what is called the political state.” 0 

The strength of the whole society may be put in the hands of one alone 
or in the hands of many / Since nature has established paternal power, 
some have thought that government by one alone is most in conformity 
with nature. But the example of paternal power proves nothing. For, if 
the power of the father is related to government by one alone, then after 
the death of the father, the power of the brothers, or after the death of 
the brothers, the power of the first cousins, is related to government by 
many. Political power necessarily includes the union of many families. 

It is better to say that the government most in conformity with nature 
is the one whose particular arrangement best relates to the disposition 
of the people for whom it is established.* 

Individual strengths cannot be united unless all wills are united. The 
union of these wills, as Gravina again aptly says, is what is called the 
CIVIL state: 

Law in general is human reason insofar as it governs all the peoples 
of the earth; and the political and civil laws of each nation should be 
only the particular cases to which human reason is applied. 

Laws should be so appropriate to the people for whom they are made 
that it is very unlikely that the laws of one nation can suit another. 

Laws must relate to the nature and the principle of the government 
that is established or that one wants to establish, whether those laws 
form it as do political laws, or maintain it, as do civil laws. 

“Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina, Origine Romani juris (1739), bk. 2, chap. 18, p. 160. 

'’The eighteenth -century meaning of plusieurs was “many.” The opposition is between 
“one” and “many,” as between monarchies or despotisms and republics in Book 2. 
q llvaut mieux dire que le gouvemement le plus conforme d la nature est celui dont la disposition 
particuliere se rapporte mieux a la disposition du peupie pour lequel il est etabli. No English 
word covers ail the disparate topics Montesquieu joins with the word disposition. 
r Giovanni Vincenzo Gravina, Origine Romani juris ( 1739 ), bk. 3, chap. 7 , footnote, p. 

3 11 - 


On laws in general 

They should be related to the physical aspect of the country; to the 
climate, be it freezing, torrid, or temperate; to the properties of the 
terrain, its location and extent; to the way of life of the peoples, be they 
plowmen, hunters, or herdsmen; they should relate to the degree of 
liberty that the constitution can sustain, to the religion of the 
inhabitants, their inclinations, their wealth, their number, their com- 
merce, their mores and their manners; finally, the laws are related to 
one another, to their origin, to the purpose of the legislator, and to the 
order of things on which they are established. They must be considered 
from all these points of view. 

This is what I undertake to do in this work. I shall examine all these 
relations; together they form what is called the spirit of the 

I have made no attempt to separate political from owYlaws, for, as I do 
not treat laws but the spirit of the laws, and as this spirit consists in the 
various relations that laws may have with various things, I have had to 
follow the natural order of laws less than that of these relations and of 
these things. 

I shall first examine the relations that laws have with the nature and 
the principle of each government, and, as this principle has a supreme 
influence on the laws, I shall apply myself to understanding it well; and 
if I can once establish it, the laws will be seen to flow from it as from 
their source. I shall then proceed to other relations that seem to be 
more particular. 

'l ’esprit des loix. Whenver possible, we translate esprit as “spirit,” but “mind” 
and “wit” also appear. 


c>c»ooc»oort>oo 0C'0fROC»G»C*0©0<aC»00C»0C>0O 


On laws deriving directly from the 
nature of the government 


On the nature of the three varieties of governments 

There are three kinds of government: republican, monarchi- 
cal, and despotic. To discover the nature of each, the idea of 
them held by the least educated of men is sufficient. I assume three 
definitions, or rather, three facts: one, republican government is that in 
which the people as a body , or only a part of the people, have sovereign power; 
monarchical government is that in which one alone governs, but by fixed and 
established laws; whereas, in despotic government, one alone, without law and 
without rule, draws everything along by his will and his caprices. 

That is what I call the nature of each government. One must see what 
laws follow directly from this nature and are consequently the first 
fundamental laws. 


On republican government and on laws relative to 

In a republic when the people as a body have sovereign power, it is a 
democracy. When the sovereign power is in the hands of a part of the 
people, it is called an aristocracy. 

In a democracy the people are, in certain respects, the monarch; in 
other respects, they are the subjects. 

They can be the monarch only through their votes which are their 
wills. The sovereign’s will is the sovereign himself. Therefore, the laws 


Lam deriving from the nature of government 

establishing the right to vote are fundamental in this government. 
Indeed, it is as important in this case to regulate how, by whom, for 
whom, and on what issues votes should be cast, as it is in a monarchy to 
know the monarch and how he should govern. 

Libanius 1 says that in Athens a foreigner who mingled in the people's 
assembly was punished with death. This is because such a man usurped 
the right of sovereignty. 

It is essential to determine the number of citizens that should form 
assemblies; unless this is done it cannot be known if the people have 
spoken or only a part of the people. In Lacedaemonia, there had to be 
10,000 citizens. In Rome, which started small and became great, 
Rome, made to endure all the vicissitudes of fortune, Rome, which 
sometimes had nearly all its citizens outside its walls and sometimes all 
Italy and a part of the world within them, the number was not 
determined ; 2 this was one of the great causes of its ruin. 

A people having sovereign power should do for itself all it can do 
well, and what it cannot do well, it must do through its ministers. 

Ministers do not belong to the people unless the people name them; 
therefore it is a fundamental maxim of this government that the people 
should name their ministers, that is, their magistrates. 

The people, like monarchs and even more than monarchs, need to 
be guided by a council or senate. But in order for the people to trust it, 
they must elect its members, either choosing the members themselves, 
as in Athens, or establishing some magistrate to elect them as was 
occasionally the practice in Rome. 

The people are admirable for choosing those to whom they should 
entrust some part of their authority. They have only to base their 
decisions on things of which they cannot be unaware and on facts that 
are evident to the senses. They know very well that a man has often 
been to war, that he has had such and such successes; they are, then, 
quite capable of electing a general. They know that a judge is 
assiduous, that many people leave the tribunal" satisfied with him, and 

1 [Libanius] Declamations 17 [Hyperides oratio 18.5-6] and 18 [Strategi apologia 44.15]. 

2 See [M.’s] Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, 
chap. 9, Paris, 1755 [chap. 9, p. 92; 1965 Eng. edn.]. 

a For tribunal we use “tribunal,” and for cour, “court”; by keeping this distinction, we 
make the history of the development of tribunals as separate from the court of some 
king or nobleman easier to follow. 

1 1 

Part j 

that he has not been convicted of corruption; this is enough for them to 
elect a praetor.* They have been struck by the magnificence or wealth 
of a citizen; that is enough for them to be able to choose an aedile. All 
these things are facts that they learn better in a public square than a 
monarch does in his palace. But will the people know how to conduct 
the public business/ will they know the places, the occasions, the 
moments, and profit from them? No, they will not. 

If one were to doubt the people’s natural ability to perceive merit, 
one would have only to cast an eye over that continuous series of 
astonishing choices made by the Athenians and the Romans; this will 
doubtless not be ascribed to chance. 

It is known that in Rome, though the people had given themselves 
the right to elevate plebeians to posts, they could not bring themselves 
to elect them; and in Athens, although, according to the law of 
Aristides, magistrates could be drawn from any class, Xenophon 3 says 
that it never happened that the common people turned to those classes 
that could threaten their well-being or glory. 

Just as most citizens, who are competent enough to elect, are not 
competent enough to be elected, so the people, who are sufficiently 
capable to call others to account for their management, are not suited to 
manage by themselves. 

Public business must proceed, and proceed at a pace that is neither 
too slow nor too fast. But the people always act too much or too little. 
Sometimes with a hundred thousand arms they upset everything; 
sometimes with a hundred thousand feet they move only like insects. 

In the popular state, the people are divided into certain classes. 
Great legislators have distinguished themselves by the way they have 
made this division, and upon it the duration and prosperity of democra- 
cies have always depended. 

Servius Tullius followed the spirit of aristocracy in the composition 
of his classes. In Livy 4 and Dionysius of Halicarnassus 5 , we see how he 

3 [Xenophon, “The Old Oligarch,” The Constitution of Athens] pp. 691, 692, Wechelius 
edition of 1596 [1.3]. 

4 [Livy] bk. 1 [1.43I. 

5 [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom.] bk. 4, arts. isff. [4.15-21]. 

*See 11.14 (p. 173) for Montesquieu’s explanation of the Roman magistracies. 
^Montesquieu uses affaire to refer to law-suits, translated “suits”; to issues before 
legislative bodies or sovereigns, translated “public business”; and to commercial 
transactions, translated “business.” 


Laws deriving from the nature of government 

put the right to vote into the hands of the principal citizens. He divided 
the people of Rome into one hundred and ninety-three centuries, 
forming six classes. He put the rich men, but in smaller numbers, into 
the first centuries; he put the less rich, but in larger numbers, into the 
following ones; he put the entire throng of the poor into the last 
century; and, since each century had only one voice , 6 it was means and 
wealth that had the vote rather than persons. 

Solon divided the people of Athens into four classes. Guided by the 
spirit of democracy, he made these classes in order to specify not those 
who were to elect but those who could be elected; and leaving to the 
citizens the right to elect, he wanted them 7 to be able to elect judges 
from each of those four classes but magistrates from the first three only, 
where the well-to-do citizens were found. 

Just as the division of those having the right to vote is a fundamental 
law in the republic, the way of casting the vote is another fundamental 

Voting by lot is in the nature of democracy; voting by choice is in the 
nature of aristocracy. 

The casting of lots is a way of electing that distresses no one; it leaves 
to each citizen a reasonable expectation of serving his country. 

But as it is imperfect by itself, the great legislators have outdone each 
other in regulating and correcting it. 

In Athens, Solon established that all military posts would be filled by 
choice but that senators and judges would be elected by lot. 

He wanted the civil magistrates that required great expenditures to 
be given by choice and the others to be given by lot. 

But in order to correct the vote by lot, he ruled that one could elect 
only from the number of those who presented themselves, that he who 
had been elected would be examined by judges , 8 and that each judge 
could accuse him of being unworthy ; 9 this derived from both lot and 

6 See [M.’s) Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, chap. 
9, for how the spirit of Servius Tullius was preserved in the republic [chap. 8, pp. 86-87; 
1965 Eng. edn.]. 

7 Dion. Hal. [ Deantiquis oratoribus], “Isocrates,” vol. 2, p. 97, Wechelius edition [Isocrates 
8]. [Julius] Pollux [Onomasticon], bk. 8, chap. 10, art. 130 [8.10.130. Pollux does not 
mention election, only class divisions in accord with property evaluations and the tax to be 
paid. See below, bk. 13, n. 4]. 

8 See Demosthenes, Orationes, De falsa legatione [19.1-8] and Against Timocrates 

9 Two tickets were even drawn for each place, one assigning the place and the other naming 
the person who was to succeed to it in case the first was rejected. 

Part i 

choice. On completing his term, the magistrate had to go through a 
second judgment regarding the way in which he had conducted 
himself. People without ability must have been very reluctant to offer 
their names to be drawn by lot. 

The law that determines the way ballots are cast is another 
fundamental law in democracy. Whether the votes should be public or 
secret is a great question. Cicero 10 writes that the laws 11 that made them 
secret in the late period of the Roman republic were one of the major 
causes of its fall. Given that this practice varies in different republics, 
here, 1 believe, is what must be thought about it. 

When the people cast votes, their votes should no doubt be public; 12 
and this should be regarded as a fundamental law of democracy. The 
lesser people must be enlightened by the principal people and subdued 
by the gravity of certain eminent men. Thus in the Roman republic all 
was destroyed by making the votes secret; it was no longer possible to 
enlighten a populace on its way to ruin. But votes cannot be too secret in 
an aristocracy when the body of nobles casts the votes, 13 or in a 
democracy when the senate does so, 14 for here the only issue is to guard 
against intrigues. 

Intrigue is dangerous in a senate; it is dangerous in a body of nobles; 
it is not dangerous in the people, whose nature is to act from passion. In 
states where the people have no part in the government, they become as 
inflamed for an actor as they would for public affairs. The misfortune 
of a republic is to be without intrigues, and this happens when the 
people have been corrupted by silver; they become cool, they grow fond 
of silver, and they are no longer fond of public affairs; without concern 
for the government or for what is proposed there, they quietly await 
their payments. 

Yet another fundamental law in democracy is that the people alone 
should make laws. However, there are a thousand occasions when it is 
necessary for the senate to be able to enact laws; it is often even 

,0 [Cicero] De legibus, bks. r and 3 [e.g., 3.15.33-3.17.40]. 

1 1 They were called ballotting laws. Each citizen was given two ballots, the first marked with 
an A, for Antique [to reject or to leave something in its former condition]; the other with U 
and R, for uti rogas [to ask for an opinion or vote], [Refers to Cicero, De legibus 3.34.37.] 
12 In Athens, hands were raised. 

13 As in Venice. 

14 The thirty tyrants of Athens wanted the votes of the Areopagus to be public in order to 
direct them according to their fancy. Lysias, Orationes, Against Agoratus, chap. 8 [13.37]. 

Laws deriving from the nature of government 

appropriate to test a law before establishing it. The constitutions of 
Rome and Athens were very wise. The decrees of the senate 15 had the 
force of law for a year; they became permanent only by the will of the 

l5 See Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 4 [4.80.2 and 4.74.2] and bk. 9 [9.37.2]. 


On laws relative to the nature of aristocracy 

In aristocracy, sovereign power is in the hands of a certain number of 
persons. They make the laws and see to their execution, and the rest of 
the people mean at best no more to these persons than the subjects in a 
monarchy mean to the monarch. 

Voting should not be by lot; this would have only drawbacks. Indeed, 
in a government that has already established the most grievous 
distinctions, though a man might be chosen by lot, he would be no less 
odious for it; the noble is envied, not the magistrate. 

When there are many nobles, there must be a senate to rule on the 
affairs that the body of nobles cannot decide and to take the preliminary 
steps for those on which it decides. In the latter case, it may be said that 
aristocracy is, in a way, in the senate, that democracy is in the body of 
nobles, and that the people are nothing. 

It is a very fine thing in an aristocracy for the people to be raised from 
their nothingness in some indirect way; thus, in Genoa, the Bank of St 
George, administered largely by the principal men among the people , 16 
gives the people a certain influence in government, which brings about 
their whole prosperity. 

Senators should not have the right to fill vacancies in the senate; 
nothing would be more likely to perpetuate abuses. In Rome, which 
was a kind of aristocracy in its early days, the senate did not name 
replacements; new senators were named by the censors . 17 

When an exorbitant authority is given suddenly to a citizen in a 

,6 |Joseph] Addison, Remarks on Several Parts of Italy in the Years 1701, 1702, 170J, p. 16 [2, 
24-25; 1914 edn.]. 

l7 At first they were named by the consuls. 


Part i 

republic, this forms'* a monarchy or more than a monarchy. In 
monarchies, the laws have protected the constitution or have been 
adapted to it; the principle of the government checks the monarch; but 
in a republic when a citizen takes exorbitant power , 18 the abuse of this 
power is greater because the laws, which have not foreseen it, have 
done nothing to check it. 

The exception to this rule occurs when the constitution of the state is 
such that it needs a magistracy with exorbitant power. Such was Rome 
with its dictators, such is Venice with its state inquisitors; these are 
terrible magistracies which violently return the state to liberty. But how 
does it happen that the magistracies are so different in these two 
republics? It is because, whereas Venice uses its state inquisitors to 
maintain its aristocracy against the nobles, Rome was defending the 
remnants of its aristocracy against the people. From this it followed that 
the dictator in Rome was installed for only a short time because the 
people act from impetuosity and not from design. His magistracy was 
exercised with brilliance, as the issue was to intimidate, not to punish, 
the people; the dictator was created for but a single affair and had 
unlimited authority with regard to that affair alone because he was 
always created for unforeseen cases. In Venice, however, there must be 
a permanent magistracy: here designs can be laid, followed, sus- 
pended, and taken up again; here too, the ambition of one alone 
becomes that of a family, and the ambition of one family, that of several. 
A hidden magistracy is needed because the crimes it punishes, always 
deep-seated, are formed in secrecy and silence. The inquisition of this 
magistracy has to be general because its aim is not to check known evils 
but to curb unknown ones. Finally, the Venetian magistracy is 
established to avenge the crimes it suspects, whereas the Roman 
magistracy used threats more than punishments, even for those crimes 
admitted by their instigators. 

In every magistracy, the greatness of the power must be offset by the 
brevity of its duration. Most legislators have fixed the time at a year; a 
longer term would be dangerous, a shorter one would be contrary to the 
nature of the thing. Who would want thus to govern his domestic 

l8 This is what caused the overthrow of the Roman republic. See the Considerations on the 
Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, 'Paris, 1755 [chap. n,pp. 107-108; 
1965 Eng. edn.]. 

^Montesquieu often uses the verb former in the old sense of establishing by giving 


Laws deriving from the nature of government 

affairs? In Ragusa , 19 the head of the republic changes every month; the 
other officers, every week; the governor of the castle, every day. This 
can take place only in a small republic 20 surrounded by formidable 
powers which could easily corrupt petty magistrates. 

The best aristocracy is one in which the part of the people having no 
share in the power is so small and so poor that the dominant part has no 
interest in oppressing it. Thus in Athens when Antipater 21 established 
that those with less than two thousand drachmas would be excluded 
from the right to vote, he formed the best possible aristocracy, because 
this census'’ was so low that it excluded only a few people and no one of 
any consequence in the city. 

Therefore, aristocratic families should be of the people as far as 
possible. The more an aristocracy approaches democracy, the more 
perfect it will be, and to the degree it approaches monarchy the less 
perfect it will become. 

Most imperfect of all is the aristocracy in which the part of the people 
that obeys is in civil slavery to the part that commands, as in the Polish 
aristocracy, where the peasants are slaves of the nobility. 

19 [Joseph Pitton] Toumefort, Relation d’un voyage du Levant. [Not in Tournefort; he did not 
write about Ragusa. A probable source is Louis Des Hayes Courmenin, Voiage de Levant, 
pp. 480, 484, 485; 1632 edn.]. 

20 In Lucca, the magistrates are established for only two months. 

21 Diodorus Siculus [Bibliotheca historica], bk. 18, p. 601, Rhodoman edition [18.18.4]. 

'See 13.7 (p. 216) for a further discussion of the Athenian census. 


On lams in their relation to the nature of monarchical 

Intermediate, subordinate, and dependent powers constitute the 
nature of monarchical government, that is, of the government in which 
one alone governs by fundamental laws. I have said intermediate, 
subordinate, and dependent powers; indeed, in a monarchy, the prince 
is the source of all political and civil power. These fundamental laws 

^The awkwardness of some of the sentences and paragraphs in this chapter reflects the 
difficulties inherent in asserting, in the middle of the eighteenth century in France, 
that intermediate powers, however understood, were intrinsic to monarchy. 


Part i 

necessarily assume mediate channels through which power flows; for, 
if in the state there is only the momentary and capricious will of one 
alone, nothing can be fixed and consequently there is no fundamental 

The most natural intermediate, subordinate power is that of the 
nobility. In a way, the nobility is of the essence of monarchy, whose 
fundamental maxim is: no monarch, no nobility: no nobility, no monarch, 
rather, one has a despot. 

In a few European states, some people had imagined abolishing all 
the justices of the lords/ They did not see that they wanted to do whay 
the Parliament of England did. If you abolish the prerogatives of the 
lords, clergy, nobility, and towns in a monarchy, you will soon have a 
popular state or else a despotic state. 

For several centuries the tribunals of a great European state have 
been constantly striking down the patrimonial jurisdiction of the lords 
and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. We do not want to censure such wise 
magistrates, but we leave it to be decided to what extent the constitution 
can be changed in this way. 

I do not insist on the privileges of the ecclesiastics, but I would like 
their jurisdiction to be determined once and for all. It is a question of 
knowing not if one was right in establishing it but rather if it is 
established, if it is a part of the country’s laws, and if it is relative to them 
throughout; if between two powers recognized as independent, condi- 
tions should not be reciprocal; and if it is not all the same to a good 
subject to defend the prince’s justice or the limits that his justice has 
always prescribed for itself. 

To the extent that the power of the clergy is dangerous in republics, 
it is suitable in monarchies, especially in those tending to despotism. 
Where would Spain and Portugal have been, after the loss of their laws, 
without the power that alone checks arbitrary power? Ever a good 
barrier when no other exists, because, as despotism causes appalling 
ills to human nature, the very ill that limits it is a good. 

Just as the sea, which seems to want to cover the whole earth, is 
checked by the grasses and the smallest bits of gravel on the shore, so 
monarchs, whose power seems boundless, are checked by the slightest 
obstacles and submit their natural pride to supplication and prayer. 

In order to favor liberty, the English have removed all the intermedi- 

*In French justice denotes both the abstract notion and the institution which judges. 

See 30.20 and note bb for Montesquieu’s account of the justices of the lords. 


Lam deriving from the nature of government 

ate powers that formed their monarchy. They are quite right to 
preserve that liberty; if they were to lose it, they would be one of the 
most enslaved peoples on earth. 

Mr. Law, equally ignorant of the republican and of the monarchical 
constitutions, was one of the greatest promoters of despotism that had 
until then been seen in Europe.* Besides the changes he made, which 
were so abrupt, so unusual, and so unheard of, he wanted to remove the 
intermediate ranks and abolish the political bodies;' he was dissolving 22 
the monarchy by his chimerical repayments and seemed to want to buy 
back the constitution itself. 

It is not enough to have intermediate ranks in a monarchy; there 
must also be a depository of laws/ This depository can only be in the 
political bodies, which announce the laws when they are made and 
recall them when they are forgotten. The ignorance natural to the 
nobility, its laxity, and its scorn for civil government require a body that 
constantly brings the laws out of the dust in which they would be 
buried. The prince’s council is not a suitable depository. By its nature it 
is the depository of the momentary will of the prince who executes, and 
not the depository of the fundamental laws. Moreover, the monarch’s 
council constantly changes; it is not permanent; it cannot be large; it 
does not sufficiently have the people’s trust: therefore, it is not in a 
position to enlighten them in difficult times or to return them to 

In despotic states, where there are no fundamental laws, neither is 
there a depository of laws. This is why religion has so much force in 
these countries; it forms a kind of permanent depository, and if it is not 
religion, it is customs that are venerated in the place of laws. 

22 Ferdinand, King of Aragon, made himself Grand Master of the Orders, and that alone 
spoiled the constitution. 

*John Law (1671-1729). See 22.10 and note c for Montesquieu’s account of Law’s 

'corps politiques, “political bodies,” refers to political entities, including the parlements. 

7 The laws were in effect kept, held, by an entity whose responsibility was both to 
preserve and to use and interpret them. In English we retain something of this 
meaning in the term “deposition,” or sworn evidence taken outside the court for later 
submission to the court. See 28.45 ar >d note 8 f° r Montesquieu’s explanation of the 
depository of the laws. 


Part i 


On laws relative to the nature of the despotic state 

A result of the nature of despotic power is that the one man who 
exercises it has it likewise exercised by another. A man whose five 
senses constantly tell him that he is everything and that others are 
nothing is naturally lazy, ignorant, and voluptuous. Therefore, he 
abandons the public business. But, if he entrusted this business to 
many people, there would be disputes among them; there would be 
intrigues to be the first slave; the prince would be obliged to return to 
administration. Therefore it is simpler for him to abandon them to a 
vizir 23 who will instantly have the same power as he. In this state, the 
establishment of a vizir is a fundamental law. 

It is said that a certain pope, upon his election, overcome with his 
inadequacy, at first made infinite difficulties. Finally, he agreed to turn 
all matters of business over to his nephew. He was awestruck and said, 
“I would never have believed that it could be so easy.” It is the same for 
the princes of the East. When, from that prison where eunuchs have 
weakened their hearts and spirits and have often left them ignorant 
even of their estate, these princes are withdrawn to be put on the 
throne, they are stunned at first; but when they have appointed a vizir, 
when in their seraglio they have given themselves up to the most brutal 
passions, when in the midst of a downtrodden court they have followed 
their most foolish caprices, they would never have believed that it could 
be so easy. 

The more extensive the empire, the larger the seraglio, and the 
more, consequently, the prince is drunk with pleasures. Thus, in these 
states, the more peoples the prince has to govern, the less he thinks 
about government; the greater the matters of business, the less 
deliberation they are given. 

23 Eastern kings always have vizirs, says [John] Chardin | Voyages, “Description du gouverne- 
ment”; chap. 5, “Des charges”; 5, 339-340; 181 1 edn.]. 



On the principles of the 
three governments 


The difference between the nature of the government 
and its principle 

After having examined the laws relative to the nature of each govern- 
ment, one must look at those that are relative to its principle. 

There is this difference 1 between the nature of the government and 
its principle: its nature is that which makes it what it is, and its principle, 
that which makes it act. The one is its particular structure, and the 
other is the human passions that set it in motion. 

Now, the laws should be no less relative to the principle of each 
government than to its nature. Therefore, this principle must be 
sought. I shall do so in this book. 

1 This difference is very important, and I shall draw many consequences from it; it is the key 
to an infinity of laws. 


On the principle of the various governments 

I have said that the nature of republican government is that the people 
as a body, or certain families, have the sovereign power; the nature of 
monarchical government is that the prince has the sovereign power, but 
that he exercises it according to established laws; the nature of despotic 
government is that one alone governs according to his wills and 
caprices. Nothing more is needed for me to find their three principles; 
they derive naturally from this. I shall begin with republican govern- 
ment, and I shall first speak of the democratic government. 

Part i 


On the principle of democracy 

There need not be much integrity for a monarchical or despotic 
government to maintain or sustain itself. The force of the laws in the 
one and the prince’s ever-raised arm in the other can rule or contain 
the whole. But in a popular state there must be an additional spring, 
which is virtue. 

What I say is confirmed by the entire body of history and is quite in 
conformity with the nature of things. For it is clear that less virtue is 
needed in a monarchy, where the one who sees to the execution of the 
laws judges himself above the laws, than in a popular government, 
where the one who sees to the execution of the laws feels that he is 
subject to them himself and that he will bear their weight. 

It is also clear that the monarch who ceases to see to the execution of 
the laws, through bad counsel or negligence, may easily repair the 
damage; he has only to change his counsel or correct his own 
negligence. But in a popular government when the laws have ceased to 
be executed, as this can come only from the corruption of the republic, 
the state is already lost. 

It was a fine spectacle in the last century to see the impotent attempts 
of the English to establish democracy among themselves. As those who 
took part in public affairs had no virtue at all, as their ambition was 
excited by the success of the most audacious one 2 and the spirit of one 
faction was repressed only by the spirit of another, the government was 
constantly changing; the people, stunned, sought democracy and found 
it nowhere. Finally, after much motion and many shocks and jolts, they 
had to come to rest on the very government that had been proscribed. 

When Sulla wanted to return liberty to Rome, it could no longer be 
accepted; Rome had but a weak remnant of virtue, and as it had ever 
less, instead of reawakening after Caeser, Tiberius, Caius , 0 Claudius, 
Nero, and Domitian, it became ever more enslaved; all the blows were 
struck against tyrants, none against tyranny. 

The political men of Greece who lived under popular government 
recognized no other force to sustain it than virtue. Those of today speak 

2 Cromwell. 



On the principles of the three governments 

to us only of manufacturing, commerce, finance/ wealth, and even 

When that virtue ceases, ambition enters those hearts that can admit 
it, and avarice enters them all. Desires change their objects: that which 
one used to love, one loves no longer. One was free under the laws, one 
wants to be free against them. Each citizen is like a slave who has 
escaped from his master’s house. What was a maxim is now called 
severity; what was a rule is now called constraint ; c what was vigilance is 
now called fear. There, frugality, not the desire to possess, is avarice. 
Formerly the goods of individuals made up the public treasury; the 
public treasury has now become the patrimony of individuals. The 
republic is a cast-off husk, and its strength is no more than the power of 
a few citizens and the license of all. 

There were the same forces in Athens when it dominated with so 
much glory and when it served with so much shame. It had 20,000 
citizens 3 when it defended the Greeks against the Persians, when it 
disputed for empire with Lacedaemonia, and when it attacked Sicily. It 
had 20,000 when Demetrius of Phalereus enumerated them 4 as one 
counts slaves in a market. When Philip dared dominate in Greece, 
when he appeared at the gates of Athens , 5 Athens had as yet lost only 
time. In Demosthenes one may see how much trouble was required to 
reawaken it; Philip was feared as the enemy not of liberty but of 
pleasures . 6 This town, which had resisted in spite of so many defeats, 
which had been reborn after its destructions, was defeated at 
Chaeronea and was defeated forever. What does it matter that Philip 
returns all the prisoners? He does not return men. It was always as easy 
to triumph over the forces of Athens as it was difficult to triumph over 
its virtue. 

How could Carthage have sustained itself? When Hannibal, as 
praetor, wanted to keep the magistrates from pillaging the republic, did 

3 Plutarch [Vit.], Pericles [37.4]; Plato, Critias [11 2d]. 

4 There were 21,000 citizens, 10,000 resident aliens, and 400,000 slaves. See Athenaeus 
[Naucratia] [ Deipnosophistae ], bk. 6 [272c], 

3 It had 20,000 citizens. See Demosthenes, [Orationes] Against Aristogeiton [25.51]. 

6 They had passed a law to punish by death anyone who might propose that the silver 
destined for the theatres be converted to the uses of war. 

b Finance, “finance,” refers to both the debts and the receipts of the state; “finance” is 
linked with “fisc.” See note *, bk. 30. 

'The meaning of gene goes as far as “torture,” but “constraint” gets at the central 
meaning of something imposed from outside. 


Part i 

they not go and accuse him before the Romans? Unhappy men, who 
wanted to be citizens without a city and to owe their wealth to the hand 
of their destroyers! Soon Rome asked them to send three hundred of 
the principal citizens of Carthage as hostages; Rome made them 
surrender their arms and ships and then declared war on them. Given 
the things that a disarmed Carthage did from despair , 7 one may judge 
what it could have done with its virtue when it had its full force. 

7 This war lasted three years. 


On the principle of aristocracy 

Just as there must be virtue in popular government, there must also be 
virtue in the aristocratic one. It is true that it is not as absolutely 

The people, who are with respect to the nobles what the subjects are 
with respect to the monarch, are contained by the nobles’ laws. 
Therefore, they need virtue less than the people of a democracy. But 
how will the nobles be contained? Those w r ho should see to the 
execution of the laws against their fellows will instantly feel that they act 
against themselves. Virtue must, therefore, be in this body by the 
nature of the constitution. 

Aristocratic government has a certain strength in itself that 
democracy does not have. In aristocratic government, the nobles form a 
body, which, by its prerogative and for its particular interest, represses 
the people; having laws is enough to insure that they will be executed. 

But it is as easy for this body to repress the others as it is difficult for it 
to repress itself . 8 Such is the nature of this constitution that it seems to 
put under the power of the laws the same people it exempts from them. 

Now such a body may repress itself in only two ways: either by a great 
virtue that makes the nobles in some way equal to their people, which 
may form a great republic; or by a lesser virtue, a certain moderation 
that renders the nobles at least equal among themselves, which brings 
about their preservation. 

8 Public crimes can be punished there because they are the business of all; private crimes 
will not be punished there, because it is not the business of all to punish them. 


On the principles of the three governments 

Therefore, moderation is the soul of these governments. I mean the 
moderation founded on virtue, not the one that comes from faintheart- 
edness and from Laziness of soul. 


That virtue is not the principle of monarchical government 

In monarchies, politics accomplishes great things with as little virtue as 
it can, just as in the finest machines art employs as few motions, forces, 
and wheels as possible. 

The state continues to exist independently of love of the homeland, 
desire for true glory, self-renunciation, sacrifice of one’s dearest 
interests, and all those heroic virtues we find in the ancients and know 
only by hearsay. 

The laws replace all these virtues, for which there is no need; the 
state excuses you from them: here an action done noiselessly is in a way 

Though all crimes are by their nature public, truly public crimes are 
nevertheless distinguished from private crimes, so called because they 
offend an individual more than the whole society. 

Now, in republics private crimes are more public, that is, they run 
counter to the constitution of the state more than against individuals; 
and, in monarchies, public crimes are more private, that is, they run 
counter to individual fortunes more than against the constitution of the 
state itself. 

I beg that no one be offended by what I have said; I have followed all 
the histories. I know very well that virtuous princes are not rare, but I 
say that in a monarchy it is very difficult for the people to be virtuous . 9 

Read what the historians of all times have said about the courts of 
monarchs; recall the conversations of men from every country about 
the wretched character of courtiers: these are not matters of specula- 
tion but of sad experience. 

Ambition in idleness, meanness in arrogance, the desire to enrich 
oneself without work, aversion to truth, flattery, treachery, perfidy, the 

9 I speak here about political virtue, which is moral virtue in the sense that it points toward 
the general good, very little about individual moral virtues, and not at all about that virtue 
which relates to revealed truths. This will be seen in book 5, chap. 2 [below]. 


Part i 

abandonment of all one’s engagements, the scorn of the duties of 
citizens, the fear of the prince’s virtue, the expectation of his weaknes- 
ses, and more than all that, the perpetual ridicule cast upon virtue, 
these form, I believe, the character of the greater number of courtiers, 
as observed in all places and at all times. Now, it is very awkward for 
most of the principal men of a state to be dishonest people and for the 
inferiors to be good people, for the former to be deceivers and the latter 
to consent to be no more than dupes. 

If there is some unfortunate honest man among the people , 10 hints 
Cardinal Richelieu in his Political Testament , a monarch should be 
careful not to employ him . 11 So true is it that virtue is not the spring of 
this government! Certainly, it is not excluded, but it is not its spring. 

10 To be understood in the sense of the preceding note. 

11 There it is said, “One must not employ people of low degree; they are too austere and too 
difficult” [Cardinal Richelieu, Testament politique, pt. i, chap. 4, sec. 1; pp. 237-238; 1947 


How virtue is replaced in monarchical government 

I hasten and I lengthen my steps, so that none will believe I satirize 
monarchical government. No; if one spring is missing, monarchy has 
another, honor, that is, the prejudice of each person and each 
condition, takes the place of the political virtue of which I have spoken 
and represents it everywhere. It can inspire the finest actions; joined 
with the force of the laws, it can lead to the goal of government as does 
virtue itself. 

Thus, in well-regulated monarchies everyone will be almost a good 
citizen, and one will rarely find someone who is a good man; for, in 
order to be a good man , 12 one must have the intention of being one 13 
and love the state less for oneself than for itself. 

12 These words, good man, are to be taken here only in a political sense. 

13 See note 9. 


On the principles of the three governments 


On the principle of monarchy 

Monarchical government assumes, as we have said, preeminences, 
ranks, and even a hereditary nobility. The nature of honor is to demand 
preferences and distinctions; therefore, honor has, in and of itself, a 
place in this government. 

Ambition is pernicious in a republic. It has good effects in monarchy; 
it gives life to that government; and it has this advantage, that it is not 
dangerous because it can constantly be repressed. 

You could say that it is like the system of the universe, where there is 
a force constantly repelling all bodies from the center and a force of 
gravitation attracting them to it. Honor makes all the parts of the body 
politic move; its very action binds them, and each person works for the 
common good, believing he works for his individual interests. 

Speaking philosophically, it is true that the honor that guides all the 
parts of the state is a false honor, but this false honor is as useful to the 
public as the true one would be to the individuals who could have it. 

And is it not impressive that one can oblige men to do all the difficult 
actions and which require force, with no reward other than the renown 
of these actions? 


That honor is not the principle of despotic states 

Honor is not the principle of despotic states: as the men in them are all 
equal, one cannot prefer oneself to others; as men in them are all slaves, 
one can prefer oneself to nothing. 

Moreover, as honor has its laws and rules and is incapable of 
yielding, as it depends on its own caprice and not on that of another, 
honor can be found only in states whose constitution is fixed and whose 
laws are certain. 

How could honor be endured by the despot} It glories in scorning life, 
and the despot is strong only because he can take life away. How could 
honor endure the despot? It has consistent rules and sustains its 
caprices; the despot has no rule, and his caprices destroy all the others. 


Part i 

Honor, unknown in despotic states where even the word to express it 
is often lacking , 14 reigns in monarchies; there it gives life to the whole 
body politic, to the laws, and even to the virtues. 

,4 See [John] Perry [The State of Russia under the Present Czar], p. 447 [262] [p. 217; 1967 


On the principle of despotic government 

Just as there must be virtue in a republic and honor in a monarchy, there 
must be fe a r in a despotic government. Virtue is not at all necessary 
to it and honor would be dangerous. 

The prince’s immense power passes intact to those to whom he 
entrusts it. People capable of much self-esteem would be in a position 
to cause revolutions. Therefore, fear must beat down everyone’s 
courage and extinguish even the slightest feeling of ambition. 

A moderate government can, as much as it wants and without peril, 
relax its springs. It maintains itself by its laws and even by its force. But 
when in despotic government the prince ceases for a moment to raise 
his arm, when he cannot instantly destroy those in the highest places, 1S 
all is lost, for when the spring of the government, which is fear , no 
longer exists, the people no longer have a protector. 

Apparendy it was in this sense that the cadis claimed that the Grand 
Signior was not obliged to keep his word or his oath if by doing so he 
limited his authority. 16 '* 

The people must be judged by the laws, and the important men by 
the prince’s fancy; the head of the lowest subject must be safe, and the 
pasha’s head always exposed. One cannot speak of these monstrous 
governments without shuddering. The Sophi of Persia, deposed in our 
time by Myrrweis, saw his government perish before it was conquered 
because he had not spilled enough blood . 17 

15 As often happens in military aristocracy. 

16 [Paul] Rycaut, The History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire [bk. i,chap. 2;pp. 4-5; 
1703 edn.]. 

17 See Father [jean Antoine] du Cerceau’s [translation of Judasz Tadeusz Krusinski’s] 
Histoiredela demiere revolution de Perse [1, 135-136; 1740 Eng. edn.l. 

“The Grand Signior was the Turkish sultan. 


On the principles of the three governments 

History tells us that Domitian’s horrible cruelties so frightened the 
governors that the people revived somewhat during his reign . 18 In the 
same way, a flood, destroying everything on one bank, leaves stretches 
of land on the other where meadows can be seen in the distance. 

18 His was a military government, which is one of the kinds of despotic government. (For 
example, Suetonius, Vitae duodecim Caesarum , Domitian, 10-14, 23.1; and Tacitus, 
Agricola. \ 


The difference in obedience between moderate governments 
and despotic governments 

In despotic states the nature of the government requires extreme 
obedience, and the prince’s will, once known, should produce its effect 
as infallibly as does one ball thrown against another. 

No tempering, modification, accommodation, terms, alternatives, 
negotiations, remonstrances, nothing as good or better can be pro- 
posed. Man is a creature that obeys a creature that wants. 

He can no more express his fears about a future event than he can 
blame his lack of success on the caprice of fortune. There, men’s 
portion, like beasts’, is instinct, obedience, and chastisement. 

It is useless to counter with natural feelings, respect for a father, 
tenderness for one’s children and women, laws of honor, or the state of 
one’s health; one has received the order and that is enough. 

In Persia, when the king has condemned someone, no one may speak 
to him further about it or ask for a pardon. If he were drunken or mad, 
the decree would have to be carried out just the same ; 19 if it were not, he 
would be inconsistent, and the law cannot be inconsistent. This has 
always been their way of thinking: as the order given by Ahasuerus to 
exterminate the Jews could not be revoked, it was decided to give them 
permission to defend themselves/ 

There is, however, one thing with which one can sometimes counter 

l9 See [John] Chardin [Voyages, “Description du gouvemement,” chap. 2, “De la nature du 
gouvemement”; 5, 229; 1811 edn.J. 

'Ahasuerus is the Hebrew form of Xerxes (Xerxes I in this instance). 


Part i 

the prince’s will : 20 that is religion. One will forsake one’s father, even 
kill him, if the prince orders it, but one will not drink wine if the prince 
wants it and orders it. The laws of religion are part of a higher precept, 
because they apply to the prince as well as to the subjects. But it is not 
the same for natural right; the prince is not assumed to be a man. 

In monarchical and moderate states, power is limited by that which is 
its spring; I mean honor, which reigns like a monarch over the prince 
and the people. One will not cite the laws of religion to a courtier: he 
would feel it was ridiculous; instead one will incessantly cite the laws of 
honor. This results in necessary modifications of obedience; honor is 
naturally subject to eccentricities, and obedience will follow them all. 

Though the way of obeying is different in these two governments, 
the power is nevertheless the same. In whatever direction the monarch 
turns, he prevails by tipping the balance and he is obeyed. The whole 
difference is that, in the monarchy, the prince is enlightened and the 
ministers are infinitely more skillful and experienced in public affairs 
than they are in the despotic state. 

20 Ibid. [John Chardin, Voyages, “Description du gouvemement des Persans”; 5, 233-235; 
1811 edn.]. 


Reflections on all this 

Such are the principles of the three governments: this does not mean 
that in a certain republic one is virtuous, but that one ought to be; nor 
does this prove that in a certain monarchy, there is honor or that in a 
particular despotic state, there is fear, but that unless it is there, the 
government is imperfect. 


jfe jfe. -jfe jfe jfc ife jfc jfe afe jfe jjfe. jfe jfe .sfe. jfe jfe ;fc jfe, jfe jfe *fe. jfe Jk &. db Jk. Jk 



That the laws of education should be 
relative to the principles of the 


On the laws of education 

The lam of education are the first we receive. And as these prepare us to 
be citizens, each particular family should be governed according to the 
plan of the great family that includes them all. 

If there is a principle for the people taken generally, then the parts 
which compose it, that is, the families, will have one also. Therefore, 
the laws of education will be different in each kind of government. In 
monarchies, their object will be honor, in republics, virtue ; in despot- 


On education in monarchies 

In monarchies the principal education is not in the public institutions 
where children are instructed; in a way, education begins when one 
enters the world. The world is the school of what is called honor, the 
universal master that should everywhere guide us. 

Here, one sees and always hears three things: that a certain nobility 
must be put in the virtues, a certain frankness in the mores, and a certain 
politeness in the manners. 

The virtues we are shown here are always less what one owes others 
than what one owes oneself; they are not so much what calls us to our 
fellow citizens as what distinguishes us from them. 


Part i 

One judges men’s actions here not as good but as fine, not as just but 
as great; not as reasonable but as extraordinary. 

As soon as honor can find something noble here, honor becomes 
either a judge who makes it legitimate or a sophist who justifies it.“ 

It allows gallantry when gallantry is united with the idea of an 
attachment of the heart or the idea of conquest; and this is the true 
reason mores are never as pure in monarchies as in republican 

It allows deceit when deceit is added to the idea of greatness of spirit 
or greatness of business, as in politics, whose niceties do not offend it. 

It forbids adulation only when adulation is separated from the idea of 
a great fortune and is joined only with the feeling of one’s own 

I have said that, in monarchies, education should bring a certain 
frankness to the mores. Therefore, truth is desired in speech. But is 
this for the love of truth? Not at all. It is desired because a man 
accustomed to speaking the truth appears to be daring and free. 
Indeed, such a man seems dependent only on things and not on the way 
another receives them. 

This is why, commending this kind of frankness here, one scorns 
that of the people, which has for its aim only truth and simplicity. 

Finally, education in monarchies requires a certain politeness in 
manners. Men, born to live together, are also born to please each other; 
and he who does not observe the proprieties offends all those with 
whom he lives and discredits himself so much that he becomes unable 
to do any good thing. 

But politeness does not customarily have its origin in such a pure 
source. It arises from the desire to distinguish oneself. We are polite 
from arrogance; we flatter ourselves that our manners prove that we are 
not common and that we have not lived with the sort of people who have 
been neglected through the ages. 

In monarchies, politeness is naturalized at court. One excessively 
great man makes all others small. Hence the regard owed to everyone 
else and the politeness that flatters as much those who are polite as 
those to whom they are polite, because that politeness makes it 
understood that one belongs to the court or that one is worthy of 
belonging to it. 

a Des que I’honneury pent trouver quelque chose de noble, il est ou le juge qui les [le] rend 
legitimes, ou le sophiste qui les [le] justifie. 


The laws of education 

The courtly air consists in putting away one’s own greatness for a 
borrowed greatness. This greatness is more flattering to a courtier than 
is his own. It gives a certain haughty modesty that spreads afar but 
whose arrogance diminishes imperceptibly in proportion to its distance 
from the source of greatness. 

At court one finds a delicacy of taste in all things, which comes from 
continual use of the excesses of a great fortune, from the variety, and 
especially the weariness, of pleasures, from the multiplicity, even the 
confusion, of fancies, which, when they are pleasing, are always 

Education bears on all these things to make what is called the honnete 
homme, b who has all the qualities and all the virtues required in this 

Honor, meddling in everything, enters into all the modes of thought 
and all the ways of feeling and even directs the principles. 

This eccentric honor shapes the virtues into what it wants and as it 
wants: on its own, it puts rules on everything prescribed to us; 
according to its fancy, it extends or limits our duties, whether their 
source be religion, politics, or morality. 

There is nothing in monarchy that laws, religion, and honor pre- 
scribe so much as obedience to the wills of the prince, but this honor 
dictates to us that the prince should never prescribe an action that 
dishonors us because it would make us incapable of serving him. 

Crillon refused to assassinate the Duke of Guise, but he proposed to 
Henry III that he engage the duke in battle. After Saint Bartholomew’s 
Day, when Charles IX had sent orders to all the governors to have the 
Huguenots massacred, the Viscount of Orte, who was in command at 
Bayonne, wrote to the king , 1 “Sire, I have found among the inhabitants 
and the warriors only good citizens, brave soldiers, and not one 
executioner; thus, they and I together beg Your Majesty to use our 
arms and our lives for things that can be done.” This great and 
generous courage regarded a cowardly action as an impossible thing. 

For the nobility, honor prescribes nothing more than serving the 
prince in war: indeed, this is the preeminent profession because its 
risks, successes, and even misfortunes lead to greatness. But honor 

’See [Theodore Agrippa] d’Aubigne’s Histoire universale [bk. 6, chap. 5; 3.364; 1985 edn.]. 

4 In the seventeenth century honnete homme came to refer to a gentleman of courdy 
manner who was not necessarily noble by birth. 


Part i 

wants to be the arbiter in imposing this law; and if honor has been 
offended, it permits or requires one to withdraw to one’s home. 

It wants one to be able indifferently to aspire to posts or to refuse 
them; it regards this liberty as greater than fortune itself. 

Honor, therefore, has its supreme rules, and education is obliged to 
conform to them . 2 The principal rules are that we are indeed allowed to 
give importance to our fortune but that we are sovereignly forbidden to 
give any to our life. 

The second is that, when we have once been placed in a rank, we 
should do or suffer nothing that might show that we consider ourselves 
inferior to the rank itself. 

The third is that, what honor forbids is more rigorously forbidden 
when the laws do not agree in proscribing it, and that what honor 
requires is more strongly required when the laws do not require it. 

2 These comments refer to what is and not to what should be; honor is a prejudice, which 
religion sometimes works to destroy and sometimes to regulate. 


On education in despotic government 

Just as education in monarchies works only to elevate the heart, 
education in despotic states seeks only to bring it down. There, 
education must bring about servility. It will be a good, even for the 
commander, to have had such an education, since no one is a tyrant 
there without at the same time being a slave. 

Extreme obedience assumes ignorance in the one who obeys; it 
assumes ignorance even in the one who commands; he does not have to 
deliberate, to doubt, or to reason; he has only to want. 

In despotic states, each household is a separate empire. Therefore, 
education, which comes mainly from living with others, is quite limited 
there; it is reduced to putting fear in the heart and in teaching the spirit 
a few very simple religious principles. Knowledge will be dangerous, 
rivalry deadly; and, as for the virtues, Aristotle cannot believe that any 
are proper to slaves ; 3 this would indeed limit education in this 

3 [Aristotle] Pol., bk. i [i 260334-1 26ob8], 


The laws of education 

Therefore, education is, in a way, null there. One must take 
everything away in order to give something and begin by making a bad 
subject in order to make a good slave. 

Well! Why would education be intent upon forming a good citizen to 
take part in the public unhappiness? If he loved the state, he would be 
tempted to relax the springs of the government; if he failed, he would be 
ruined; if he succeeded, he would run the risk of ruining himself, the 
prince, and the empire. 


The difference in the effect of education among the ancients 
and among ourselves 

Most of the ancient peoples lived in governments that had virtue for 
their principle, and when that virtue was in full force, things were done 
in those governments that we no longer see and that astonish our small 

Their education had another advantage over ours; it was never 
contradicted. In the last year of his life, Epaminondas said, heard, saw, 
and did the same things as at the time that he was first instructed. 

Today we receive three different or opposing educations: that of our 
fathers, that of our schoolmasters, and that of the world. What we are 
told by the last upsets all the ideas of the first two. This comes partly 
from the opposition there is for us between the ties of religion and those 
of the world, a thing unknown among the ancients. 


On education in republican government 

It is in republican government that the full power of education is 
needed. Fear in despotic governments arises of itself from threats and 
chastisements; honor in monarchies is favored by the passions and 
favors them in turn; but political virtue is a renunciation of oneself, 
which is always a very painful thing. 


Part i 

One can define this virtue as love of the laws and the homeland. This 
love, requiring a continuous preference of the public interest over one’s 
own, produces all the individual virtues; they are only that preference. 

This love is singularly connected with democracies. In them alone, 
government is entrusted to each citizen. Now government is like all 
things in the world; in order to preserve it, one must love it. 

One never hears it said that kings do not love monarchy or that 
despots hate despotism. 

Therefore, in a republic, everything depends on establishing this 
love, and education should attend to inspiring it. But there is a sure way 
for children to have it; it is for the fathers themselves to have it. 

One is ordinarily in charge of giving one’s knowledge to one’s 
children and even more in charge of giving them one’s own passions. 

If this does not happen, it is because what was done in the father’s 
house is destroyed by impressions from the outside. 

It is not young people who degenerate; they are ruined only when 
grown men have already been corrupted. 


On some Greek institutions 

The ancient Greeks, persuaded that peoples who lived in a popular 
government must of necessity be brought up to be virtuous, made 
singular institutions to inspire virtue. When you see, in the Life of 
Lycurgus, the laws he gave the Lacedaemonians, you believe you are 
reading the history of the Sevarambes. The laws of Crete were the 
originals for the laws of Lacedaemonia, and Plato’s laws were their 

I pray that one pay a little attention to the breadth of genius of those 
legislators who saw that by running counter to all received usages and 
by confusing all virtues, they would show their wisdom to the universe. 
Lycurgus, mixing larceny with the spirit of justice, the harshest slavery 
with extreme liberty, the most heinous feelings with the greatest 
moderation, gave stability to his town. He seemed to remove all its 
resources, arts, commerce, silver, walls: one had ambition there 
without the expectation of bettering oneself; one had natural feelings 
but was neither child, husband, nor father; modesty itself was removed 


The laws of education 

from chastity. In these ways, Sparta was led to greatness and glory, with 
such an infallibility in its institutions that nothing was gained by 
winning battles against it, until its police was taken away. 4c 

Crete and Laconia were governed by these laws. Lacedaemonia was 
the last to yield to the Macedonians, and Crete 5 was the last prey of the 
Romans. The Samnites had these same institutions and they provided 
the occasion for twenty- four triumphs for the Romans . 6 

We can see that which was extraordinary in the Greek institutions in 
the dregs and corruption of modem times . 7 A legislator, an honnete 
hommef has formed a people in whom integrity seems as natural as 
bravery was among the Spartans. Mr. Penn is a true Lycurgus; and, 
though he has had peace for his object as Lycurgus had war, they are 
alike in the unique path on which they have set their people, in their 
ascendancy over free men, in the prejudices they have vanquished, and 
in the passions they have subdued. 

Paraguay can furnish us with another example. Some have wanted to 
use it to level charges against the Society/ which considers the pleasure 
of commanding the only good in life, but governing men by making 
men happier will always be a fine thing . 8 

It is fortunate for the Society that it was the first to show in these 
countries the idea of religion joined with that of humanity. By repairing 
the pillages of the Spaniards, it has begun to heal one of the greatest 
wounds mankind has yet received. 

The Society’s exquisite feeling for all it calls honor and its zeal for a 
religion that humbles those who listen far more than those who preach 
have made it undertake great things, and it has been successful. It has 

4 Philopoemen forced the Lacedaemonians to give up their way of raising children, knowing 
that if he did not, the Lacedaemonians would always have great souls and lofty hearts. 
Plutarch [Vit.], Philopoemen [16.5]. See Livy, bk. 38 [38.34.9]. 

5 Crete defended its laws and its liberty for three years. See books 98, 99, and 100 of Livy in 
xheEpitome ofFlorus [1.42.1; 3.7.1]. [Injohann Freinsheim, Supplementorum Livianorum 
97.14-15; 98.80-84; 99 47; 100. 10.] It put up more resistance than the greatest kings. 

6 Florus [Epitome rerum Romanorum], bk. 1 [1.11.8-1.16.8]. 

7 “Among the dregs of Romulus” [L.]. Cicero [Epistolae ad Atticum 2.1.8]. 

8 The Indians of Paraguay do not depend on a particular lord; their tributes are but one- 
fifth, and they have firearms for protection. 

f We have translated police as “police.” In the eighteenth century, in both French and 
English, police meant the administration, or order, of everyday things. See note 
bk. 26. 

rf See note *, bk. 4. 
f The Jesuits were called the Societe. 


Part i 

brought dispersed peoples out of the woods; it has assured their 
sustenance; it has clothed them; and if, in so doing, it had done no more 
than increase industry among men, it would have accomplished much. 

Those who want to make similar institutions will establish the 
community of goods of Plato’s Republic, the respect he required for the 
gods, the separation from strangers in order to preserve the mores, and 
commerce done by the city/ not by the citizens; they will produce our 
arts without our luxury and our needs without our desires. 

They will proscribe silver, whose effect is to fatten the fortune of 
men beyond the limits nature has set for it, to teach men to preserve 
vainly what has been amassed vainly, to multiply desires infinitely and 
to supplement nature, which has given us very limited means to excite 
our passions and to corrupt one another. 

“The Epadamnians , 9 feeling that their communication with the 
barbarians corrupted their mores, elected a magistrate to do all their 
trading in the name of the city and for the city.” In this way commerce 
does not corrupt the constitution, and the constitution does not deprive 
the society of the advantages of commerce. 

9 Plutarch [Moralia], Quaestiones Graecae (chap. 29, 297^2983]. 

^By and large Montesquieu seems to use cite, “city,” when speaking of a political 
organization and ville, “town,” when speaking of a collection of inhabitants, however 


In what case these singular institutions can be good 

These sorts of institutions can be suitable in republics, because 
political virtue is their principle, but less care is needed to induce honor 
in monarchies or to inspire fear in despotic states. 

Furthermore, they can have a place only in a small state , 10 where one 
can educate the general populace and raise a whole people like a family. 

The laws of Minos, Lycurgus, and Plato assume that all citizens pay 
a singular attention to each other. This cannot be promised in the 
confusion, oversights, and extensive business of a numerous people. 
As has been said, silver must be banished from these institutions. 

10 As were the Greek towns. 


The laws of education 

But in large societies, the number, the variety, the press and the 
importance of business, the ease of purchases, and the slowness of 
exchanges, all these require a common measure. In order to carry one’s 
power everywhere or defend it everywhere, one must have that to which 
men everywhere have attached power. 


Explanation of a paradox of the ancients in relation to 

Polybius, judicious Polybius, tells us that music was necessary to soften 
the mores of the Arcadians, who lived in a country where the weather is 
gloomy and cold, that the inhabitants of Kynaithes, who neglected 
music, surpassed all the other Greeks in cruelty and that never had so 
much crime been seen in a town/ Plato is not afraid to say that no 
change can be made in music which is not a change in the constitution 
of the state. Aristode, who seems to have written his Politics only in 
order to oppose his feelings to Plato’s, nevertheless agrees with him 
about the power of music over mores. Theophrastus/ Plutarch , 11 and 
Strabo , 12 all the ancients, have thought likewise. This is not an opinion 
proffered without reflection; it is one of the principles of their politics . 13 
It is thus that they gave laws; it is thus that they wanted the cities to be 

I believe I can explain this. One must keep in mind that in the Greek 
towns, especially in those whose principal aim was war, all work and all 
professions that could lead to earning silver were regarded as unworthy 
of a free man. “Most arts,” said Xenophon , 14 “corrupt the body of the 
one who practices them; they oblige one to sit in the shade or near the 

"[Plutarch, Vit.], Pelopidas [19. 1]. 

12 [Strabo, Geographica ] bk. 1 [1.2. 3 ,8). 

13 Plato, Laws, bk. 4 [6.765c], says that the prefectships of music and gymnastics are the most 
important employments of the city; and in his Republic, bk. 3 [400b]: “Damon will tell 
you,” he said, “what sounds are capable of giving rise to baseness of soul, to insolence, and 
to the contrary virtues.” 

"[Xenophon] bk. 5, Oeconomicus [4.2-3]. 

^Polybius 4.20-21. 

A Theophrastus fragments 87, 88, 89, 90. 


Part i 

fire: one has no time for one’s friends, no time for the republic.” It was 
only when some democracies became corrupted that craftsmen 
managed to become citizens. Aristotle 15 teaches us this, and he holds 
that a good republic will never give them citizenship. 16 ’ 

Agriculture, too, was a servile profession, and it was ordinarily some 
conquered people who followed it: the Helots farmed for the 
Lacedaemonians, the Perioikoi for the Cretans, the Penestai for the 
Thessalians, and other 17 slave peoples in other republics. 

Finally, all common commerce 18 was disgraceful to the Greeks. A 
citizen would have had to provide services for a slave, a tenant, or a 
foreigner; this idea ran counter to the spirit of Greek liberty; thus 
Plato 19 in his Lam wants any citizen who engages in commerce to be 

In the Greek republics, one was, therefore, in a very awkward 
position. One did not want the citizens to work in commerce, agri- 
culture, or the arts; nor did one want them to be idle . 20 They found an 
occupation in the exercises derived from gymnastics and those related 
to war . 21 The institutions gave them no others. One must regard the 
Greeks as a society of athletes and fighters. Now, these exercises, so 

,5 [Aristotle] Pol., bk. 3, chap. 4 [1277^-3]. 

16 “Diophantes,” says Aristotle in Pol. [bk. 2], chap. 7 [1267b! 5-19], “formerly established 
in Athens that the artisans would be slaves of the public.” 

I7 Thus Plato and Aristotle want slaves to cultivate the land. [Plato] Lam, bk. 7 [8o6ej; 
[Aristotle] Pol., bk. 7, chap. 10 [1330225-26]. Ir is true that agriculture was not 
everywhere the work of slaves; on the contrary, as Aristotle says [Pol. 13 1 8b9~io], the best 
republics were those in which it was undertaken by the citizens, but this happened only 
through the corruption of the ancient governments, which had become democratic, for in 
the earliest times, the towns of Greece lived as aristocracies. 

x% Cauponatio [shopkeeping or innkeeping]. 

19 [Plato, Lam ] bk. 2 [9i9d-92oa]. 

20 Aristode, Pol., bk. 10. [This refers to the “completion” of Aristotle’s Politics prepared by 
the Florentine scholar Cyriacus Stroza (1 504- 1 565). It was first published in 1 563 . Stroza 
prepared two books, 9 and 10, providing a Greek text and a Latin translation. His 
supplement later appeared in Casaubon’s edition of Aristotle, and was published into the 
eighteenth century. A French translation, prepared in the late sixteenth century, was 
appended to Le Roy’s translation of the Politics. Book 9 concerns the education and 
training of soldiers; book 10 describes the role of princes and of priests. Both book 9 and 
book 10 address the issues of gymnastics, agriculture, commerce, and the best life.] 

21 “Gymnastic art is to exercise the body; the trainer’s art is for the activities of different 
sports contests” [L.]. Aristotle, Pol., bk. 8, chap. 3 [133866-8]. 

'droit de la cite. We translate several expressions as “citizenship”; because of the variety 
of meanings, the reader will find the French in these notes. 


The laws of education 

appropriate for making people harsh and savage, 22 ' needed to be 
tempered by others that might soften the mores. Music, which enters 
the spirit through the organs of the body, was quite suitable. It is a mean 
between the physical exercises that render men harsh and the specu- 
lative sciences that render them savage. One cannot say that music 
inspired virtue; it would be inconceivable; but music curbed the effect 
of the ferocity of the institution and gave the soul a part in education 
that it would not otherwise have had. 

I assume among ourselves a society of people so enamored of 
hunting that they did nothing else; they would surely acquire a certain 
roughness. If these same people were also to develop a taste for music, 
one would soon find a difference in their manners and in their mores. 
In short, the exercises practiced by the Greeks aroused in them only 
one type of passion: roughness, anger, and cruelty. Music arouses them 
all and can make the soul feel softness, pity, tenderness, and sweet 
pleasure. Those who write on morality for us and so strongly proscribe 
the theaters make us feel sufficiently the power of music on our souls. 

If one gave only drums and trumpet fanfares to the society I have 
mentioned, would not one fall shorter of one’s goal than if one gave it a 
tender music? The ancients were right, therefore, when, under certain 
circumstances, they preferred one mode of music to another for the 
sake of mores. 

But, one will say, why should music be preferred? Of all the 
pleasures of the senses, none corrupts the soul less. We blush to read in 
Plutarch 23 that the Thebans, in order to soften the mores of their young 
people, established by their laws a love that ought to be proscribed by all 
nations in the world. 

22 Aristotle says that the children of the Lacedaemonians, who began these exercises when 
very young, became too ferocious as a result. Aristotle, Pol., bk. 8, chap. 4 [1338b! 2-1 4]. 

23 [Plutarch, Vit.] Pelopidas [18-19.2]. 

"’The meaning in French of sauvage covers both the notion of the brutal and savage and 
that of the shy and wild; it means something asocial. 



That the laws given by the legislator 
should be relative to the principle of the 


The idea of this book 

We have just seen that the laws of education should have a relation to 
the principle of each government. It is the same for the laws the 
legislator gives to the society as a whole. This relation between the laws 
and the principle tightens all the springs of the government, and the 
principle in turn receives a new force from the laws. Thus, in physical 
motion, an action is always followed by a reaction. 

We shall examine this relation in each government, and we shall 
begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle. 


What virtue is in the political state 

Virtue, in a republic, is a very simple thing: it is love of the republic; it is 
a feeling and not a result of knowledge; the lowest man in the state, like 
the first, can have this feeling. Once the people have good maxims, they 
adhere to them longer than do those who are called honnetes gens. a 
Corruption seldom begins with the people; from their middling 
enlightenment they have often derived a stronger attachment to that 
which is established. 

Love of the homeland leads to goodness in mores, and goodness in 
mores leads to love of the homeland. The less we can satisfy our 

"See note *, bk. 4. 


The laws given by the legislator 

particular passions, the more we give ourselves up to passions for the 
general order. Why do monks so love their order? Their love comes 
from the same thing that makes their order intolerable to them. Their 
rule deprives them of everything upon which ordinary passions rest; 
what remains, therefore, is the passion for the very rule that afflicts 
them. The more austere it is, that is, the more it curtails their 
inclinations, the more force it gives to those that remain. 


What lave of the republic is in a democracy 

Love of the republic in a democracy is love of democracy; love of 
democracy is love of equality. 

Love of democracy is also love of frugality. As each one there should 
have the same happiness and the same advantages, each should taste 
the same pleasures and form the same expectations; this is something 
that can be anticipated only from the common frugality. 

Love of equality in a democracy limits ambition to the single desire, 
the single happiness, of rendering greater services to one’s homeland 
than other citizens. Men cannot render it equal services, but they 
should equally render it services. At birth one contracts an immense 
debt to it that can never be repaid. 

Thus distinctions in a democracy arise from the principle of equality, 
even when equality seems to be erased by successful services or 
superior talents. 

Love of frugality limits the desire to possess to the mindfulness 
required by that which is necessary for one’s family, and even by that 
which is superfluous for one’s homeland. Wealth gives a power that a 
citizen cannot use for himself, for he would not be equal. It also 
procures delights that he should not enjoy, because these would 
likewise run counter to equality. 

Thus by establishing frugality in domestic life, good democracies 
opened the gate to public expenditures, as happened in Athens and 
Rome. Magnificence and abundance had their source in frugality itself; 
and, just as religion requires unsullied hands so that one can make 
offerings to the gods, the laws wanted frugal mores so that one could 
give to one’s homeland. 


Part i 

The good sense and happiness of individuals largely consists in their 
having middling talents and fortunes. If a republic whose laws have 
formed many middling people is composed of sober people, it will be 
governed soberly;* if it is composed of happy people, it will be very 

4 See note b , bk. i. Here sage must mean a quality available to mediocre, “middling,” 


How love of equality and frugality is inspired 

Love of equality and love of frugality are strongly aroused by equality 
and frugality themselves, when one lives in a society in which both are 
established by the laws. 

In monarchies and despotic states, no one aspires to equality; the 
idea of equality does not even occur; in these states everyone aims for 
superiority. The people of the lowest conditions desire to quit those 
conditions only in order to be masters of the others. 

It is the same for frugality; in order to love it, one must practice it. 
Those who are corrupted by delights will not love the frugal life; and if 
this had been natural and ordinary, Alcibiades would not have been the 
wonder of the universe. Nor will those who envy or admire the luxury of 
others love frugality; people who have before their eyes only rich men, 
or poor men like themselves, detest their poverty without loving or 
knowing what puts an end to poverty. 

Therefore, it is a very true maxim that if one is to love equality and 
frugality in a republic, these must have been established by the laws. 


How the laws establish equality in democracy 

Some legislators of ancient times, like Lycurgus and Romulus, divided 
the lands equally. This could happen only at the founding of a new 
republic; or when the old one was so corrupt and spirits so disposed 


The laws given by the legislator 

that the poor believed themselves obliged to seek, and the rich obliged 
to suffer, such a remedy. 

If the legislator who makes such a division does not give laws to 
maintain it, his is only a transitory constitution; inequality will enter at 
the point not protected by the laws, and the republic will be lost. 

One must, therefore, regulate to this end dowries, gifts, 
inheritances, testaments, in sum, all the kinds of contracts. For if it 
were permitted to give one’s goods to whomever one wanted and as one 
wanted, each individual will would disturb the disposition of the 
fundamental laws/ 

In Athens, Solon 1 acted inconsistently with the old laws, which 
ordered that goods should remain in the family of the testator , 2 when he 
permitted one to leave one’s goods to whomever one wanted by 
testament provided one had no children. He acted inconsistently with 
his own laws; for, by cancelling debts, he had sought equality. 

The law that forbade one to have two inheritances was a good law for 
democracy . 3 It originated in the equal division of the lands and portions 
given to each citizen. The law did not want any one man to have several 

The law ordering the closest male relative to marry the female heir 
arose from a similar source. Among the Jews, this law was given after a 
similar division. Plato , 4 who founds his laws on this division, gives it 
also, and it was an Athenian law. 

There was a certain law in Athens of which, so far as I know, no one 
has understood the spirit. Marriage was permitted to the step-sister on 
the father’s side, but not to the step-sister on the mother’s side . 5 This 
usage originated in republics, whose spirit was to avoid giving two 
portions of land and consequently two inheritances to one person. 
When a man married the step-sister on the father’s side, he could 

’Plutarch [Vit.\ Solon [21.2]. 

2 Ibid. [Plutarch, Vit., Solon 21.2.] 

3 Philolaus of Corinth established in Athens that the number of portions of land and that of 
inheritances would always be the same. Aristotle, Pol., bk. 2, chap. 1 2 [1 274^4-5]. 

4 [Plato] Republic, bk. 8. [See Laws 9246-9256.] 

5 Cornelius Nepos [ Liber de excellentibus ducibus exterrarum gentium\, “Preface” [4]; this 
usage belonged to earliest times. Thus Abraham says of Sarah [Genesis 20.12]: “She is 
my sister, daughter of my father and not of my mother.” The same reasons had caused the 
same law to be established among different peoples. 

^Montesquieu distinguishes here, and at note “, bk. 27, between volontes, “wills,” and 
testaments, “testaments,” which may or may not be guided by those wills. 


Part i 

receive only one inheritance, that of his father; but, when he married 
the step-sister on the mother’s side, it could happen that the father of 
this sister, in the absence of male children, might leave her the 
inheritance, and that the brother, who had married her, might conse- 
quently receive tw o of them. 

Let not what Philo says be proposed to me as an objection : 6 that, 
although in Athens one might marry a step-sister on the father’s side 
and not on the mother’s side, in Lacedaemonia one could marry a step- 
sister on the mother’s side and not on the father’s side. For I find in 
Strabo 7 that in Lacedaemonia when a step-sister married a brother, she 
had half the brother’s portion for her dowry. It is clear that this second 
law was made to curb the bad consequences of the first. In order to 
prevent the goods of the step-sister’s family from passing to the 
brother’s, half the brother’s goods were given to the step-sister as a 

Seneca , 8 speaking of Silanus, who had married his step-sister, says 
that such permission had restricted application in Athens and was 
applied generally in Alexandria. In the government of one alone, the 
question of maintaining the division of goods hardly arose. 

In order to maintain this division of lands in a democracy, it was a 
good law that wanted the father of several children to choose one to 
inherit his portion 9 and have his other children adopted by someone 
who had no children, so that the number of citizens might always be 
maintained equal to the number of shares. 

Phaleas of Chalcedon 10 devised a way of rendering fortunes equal in 
a republic where they were not equal. He wanted the rich to give 
dowries to the poor and to receive none from them, and the poor to 
receive silver for their daughters and to give none. But I know of no 
republic that adopted such a rule. It places the citizens under such 
strikingly different conditions that they would hate the very equality 
that one sought to introduce. It is sometimes good for laws not to 
appear to go so directly toward the end they propose. 

Although in a democracy real equality is the soul of the state, still this 

6 [Philo Judaeus] De specialibus legibus [III. 22; chap. 4]. 

7 [Strabo, Geographica ] bk. io [10.4.20]. 

8 “In Athens it [marriage] was permitted to a half [sister]; in Alexandria to a full [sister]” 
[L .]. Seneca, De morte Claudii \Apokolokyntosis ( The Pumpkinification of the Divine Claudius) 

9 Plato makes a similar law. Bk. 3 of the Lam [74ob-c]. 

10 Aristode, Pol., bk. 2, chap. 7 [1266339-126665]. 


The laws given by the legislator 

equality is so difficult to establish that an extreme precision in this 
regard would not always be suitable. It suffices to establish a census" 
that reduces differences or fixes them at a certain point; after which, it 
is the task of particular laws to equalize inequalities, so to speak, by the 
burdens they impose on the rich and the relief they afford to the poor. 
Only wealth of middling size can give or suffer these kinds of 
adjustments, because, for men of immoderate fortunes, all power and 
honor not accorded them is regarded as an affront. 

Every inequality in a democracy should be drawn from the nature of 
democracy and from the very principle of equality. For example, it can 
be feared there that people who need steady work for their livelihood 
might become too impoverished by a magistracy, or that they might 
neglect its functions; that artisans might become arrogant; that too- 
numerous freed men might become more powerful than the original 
citizens. In these cases, equality among the citizens 12 in the democracy 
can be removed for the utility of the democracy. But it is only an 
apparent equality that is removed; for a man ruined by a magistracy 
would be in a worse condition than the other citizens; and this same 
man, who would be obliged to neglect its functions, would put the other 
citizens in a condition worse than his, and so forth. 

' 1 Solon made four classes: the first, those who had five hundred minas of income, whether 
in grain or in liquid products; the second, those who had three hundred and could keep a 
horse; the third, those who had only two hundred; the fourth, all those who lived by their 
hands. Plutarch [Vit.], Solon [18.1-2]. 

12 Solon excludes from burdens all those in the fourth census [hundred]. [Plutarch, Vit . , 
Solon 18.2.] 


How laws should sustain frugality in democracy 

It is not sufficient in a good democracy for the portions of land to be 
equal; they must be small, as among the Romans. Curius said to his 
soldiers , 13 “God forbid that a citizen should esteem as little that land 
which is sufficient to nourish a man.” 

As the equality of fortunes sustains frugality, frugality maintains the 

"They asked for a larger portion of the conquered land. Plutarch, Moralia, Regum et 
imperatorum apophthegmata [194c]. 


Part i 

equality of fortunes. These things, although different, are such that 
they cannot continue to exist without each other; each is the cause and 
the effect; if one of them is withdrawn from democracy, the other 
always follows. 

Certainly, when democracy is founded on commerce, it may very 
well happen that individuals have great wealth, yet that the mores are 
not corrupted. This is because the spirit of commerce brings with it the 
spirit of frugality, economy, moderation, work, wisdom, tranquillity, 
order, and rule. Thus, as long as this spirit continues to exist, the wealth 
it produces has no bad effect. The ill comes when an excess of wealth 
destroys the spirit of commerce; one sees the sudden rise of the 
disorders of inequality which had not made themselves felt before. 

In order for the spirit of commerce to be maintained, the principal 
citizens must engage in commerce themselves; this spirit must reign 
alone and not be crossed by another; all the laws must favor it; these 
same laws, whose provisions divide fortunes in proportion as com- 
merce increases them, must make each poor citizen comfortable 
enough to be able to work as the others do and must bring each rich 
citizen to a middle level such that he needs to work in order to preserve 
or to acquire. 

In a commercial republic, the law giving all children an equal portion 
in the inheritance of the fathers is very good. In this way, whatever 
fortune the father may have made, his children, always less rich than 
he, are led to flee luxury and work as he did. I speak only of commercial 
republics, because, for those that are not, the legislator has to make 
many other regulations . 14 

In Greece there were two sorts of republics. Some were military, like 
Lacedaemonia; others, commercial, like Athens. In the former, one 
wanted the citizen to be idle; in the latter, one sought to instill a love for 
work. Solon made idleness a crime and wanted each citizen to account 
for the way he earned his living. Indeed, in a good democracy where 
spending should be only for necessities, each person should have them, 
for from whom would he receive them? 

14 Women’s dowries should be much restricted there. 


The laws given by the legislator 


Other means of favoring the principle of democracy 

An equal division of lands cannot be established in all democracies. 
There are circumstances in which such an arrangement would be 
impractical and dangerous and would even run counter to the constitu- 
tion. One is not always obliged to take extreme courses. If one sees that 
this division, which should maintain the mores, is not suitable in a 
democracy, one must have recourse to other means. 

If a fixed body is established that is in itself the rule in mores, a senate 
to which age, virtue, gravity and service give entrance, the senators, 
who are seen by the people as simulacra of gods, will inspire feelings 
that will reach into all families. 

The senate must, above all, be attached to the old institutions and 
see that the people and the magistrates never deviate from these. 

With regard to mores, much is to be gained by keeping the old 
customs. Since corrupt peoples rarely do great things and have 
established few societies, founded few towns, and given few laws; and 
since, on the contrary, those with simple and austere mores have made 
most establishments, recalling men to the old maxims usually returns 
them to virtue. 

Furthermore, if there has been some revolution and one has given 
the state a new form, it could scarcely have been done without infinite 
pain and work, and rarely with idleness and corrupt mores. The very 
ones who made the revolution wanted it to be savored, and they could 
scarcely have succeeded in this without good laws. Therefore, the old 
institutions are usually correctives, and the new ones, abuses. In a 
government that lasts a long time, one descends to ills by imperceptible 
degrees, and one climbs back to the good only with an effort. 

It has been asked whether the members of the senate of which we are 
speaking should be members for life or chosen for a set time. They 
should doubtless be chosen for life, as was done in Rome , 15 
Lacedaemonia , 16 and even Athens. The senate in Athens, a body that 



There the magistracies were for one year and the senators for life. 

“Lycurgus,” says Xenophon, The Constitution of the Lacedaemonians [i 0.1-2], “wanted the 
senators elected from among the old men so that they should not be neglected even at the 
end of their lives; and by establishing them as judges of the courage of the young people, he 
made the old age of the former more honorable than the strength of the latter.” 


Part i 

changed every three months, must not be confused with the Areopa- 
gus, whose members were established for life, a permanent model, as it 

Here is a general maxim: in a senate made to be the rule, and, so to 
speak, the depository of the mores, senators should be elected for life; 
in a senate made to plan public business, the senators can change. 

The spirit, says Aristotle, ages like the body. This reflection is good 
only in regard to a single magistrate and cannot be applied to an 
assembly of senators. 

Besides the Areopagus, Athens had guardians of the mores and 
guardians of the laws . 17 In Lacedaemonia all the old men were censors. 
In Rome, two of the magistrates were the censors. Just as the senate 
keeps watch over the people, the censors must keep their eyes on the 
people and the senate. They must reestablish all that has become 
corrupted in the republic, notice slackness, judge oversights, and 
correct mistakes just as the laws punish crimes. 

The Roman law that wanted the accusation of adultery to be made 
public maintained the purity of mores remarkably well; it intimidated 
the women and also intimidated those who kept watch over them. 

Nothing maintains mores better than the extreme subordination of 
the young to the elderly. Both are contained, the former by the respect 
they have for the elderly, the latter by the respect they have for 

Nothing gives greater force to the laws than the extreme subordi- 
nation of the citizens to the magistrates. “The great difference 
Lycurgus set up between Lacedaemonia and other cities,” says 
Xenophon , 18 “consists above all in his having made the citizens obey 
the laws; they hasten when the magistrate calls them. But in Athens, a 
rich man would despair if one believed him dependent on the 

Paternal authority is also very useful for maintaining mores. We have 
already said that none of the forces in a republic is as repressive as those 
in other governments. The laws must, therefore, seek to supplement 
them; they do so by paternal authority. 

In Rome fathers had the right of life and death over their own 

17 The Areopagus itself was subject to the censorship. 

,8 [Xenophon] The Constitution of the Lacedaemonians [8.2]. [Athens is not explicitly men- 
tioned in the original.) 

5 ° 

The laws given by the legislator 

children . 19 In Lacedaemonia each father had the right to correct the 
child of another. 

In Rome paternal power was lost along with the republic. In 
monarchies, where there is no question of such pure mores, one wants 
each person to live under the power of magistrates. 

The laws of Rome, which accustomed young people to dependency, 
delayed their coming of age. Perhaps we were wrong to take up this 
usage; this much constraint is not needed in a monarchy. 

The same subordination in a republic could make it possible for the 
father to remain the master of his children’s goods during his life, as 
was the rule in Rome. But this is not in the spirit of monarchy. 

l9 One can see in Roman history with what advantage to the republic this power was used. I 
shall speak only of the time of the greatest corruption. Aulus Fulvius was on his way to find 
Catilina; his father called him back and put him to death. Sallust, Catilina [39.5]. Several 
other citizens did the same. Cass. Dio [Historia Romano], bk. 37 [37.36.4). 


How laws should relate to the principle of the 
government in aristocracy 

In an aristocracy, if the people are virtuous, they will enjoy almost the 
same happiness as in popular government, and the state will become 
powerful. But, as it is rare to find much virtue where men’s fortunes are 
so unequal, the laws must tend to give, as much as they can, a spirit of 
moderation, and they must seek to reestablish the equality necessarily 
taken away by the constitution of the state. 

The spirit of moderation is what is called virtue in aristocracy; there 
it takes the place of the spirit of equality in the popular state. 

If the pomp and splendor surrounding kings is a part of their power, 
modesty and simplicity of manners are the strength of nobles in an 
aristocracy . 20 When the nobles affect no distinction, when they blend 

20 In our time the Venetians, who in many respects behaved very wisely, decided in a dispute 
between a Venetian nobleman and a gentleman of the mainland over precedence in a 
church that, outside of Venice, a Venetian nobleman had no preeminence over another 


Part i 

with the people, dress like them, and share all their pleasures with 
them, the people forget their own weakness. 

Each government has its nature and its principle. The aristocracy 
must, therefore, not assume the nature and principle of monarchy, 
which would happen if the nobles had any personal and particular 
prerogatives distinct from those of the body to which they belong: 
privileges should be for the senate, and simple respect for the senators. 

There are two principal sources of disorders in aristocratic states: 
extreme inequality between those who govern and those who are 
governed, and a similar inequality between the different members of 
the governing body. Hatreds and jealousies that the laws should 
prevent or check result from these two inequalities. 

The first inequality is found chiefly when the privileges of the 
principal men are considered honorable only because they bring shame 
to the people. Such was the law in Rome that prohibited patricians from 
marrying plebeians , 21 which had no other effect than to render the 
patricians, on the one hand, more haughty, and on the other, more 
odious. Witness the advantages the tribunes drew from this in their 

This inequality will again be found if the conditions of citizens differ 
in relation to payments, which happens in four ways: when the nobles 
give themselves the privilege of not paying them; when they exempt 
themselves fraudulently ; 22 when they recover them for themselves on 
the pretext of remunerations or stipends for the tasks they do; finally, 
when they make the people their tributaries and divide among them- 
selves the imposts they levy upon them. This last case is rare; when it 
occurs, an aristocracy is the harshest of all governments. 

While Rome leaned toward aristocracy, it avoided these defects very 
well. The magistrates never drew stipends from their magistracies. 
The principal men of the republic were assessed like all others; they 
were assessed even more; and sometimes they were the only ones 
assessed. Finally, far from dividing the revenues of the state among 
themselves, they distributed all that could be drawn from the public 
treasury, all the wealth that fortune sent them, to the people, to be 
pardoned for their honors . 23 

21 The decemvirs include it in the last two Tables. See Dion. Hal. \Ant. Rom .], bk. io 

22 As in some aristocracies of our time. Nothing so weakens the state. 

23 See in Strabo [Geographica], bk. 14 [14.2.5], how the Rhodians behaved in this respect. 


The lam given by the legislator 

It is a fundamental maxim that distributions made to the people have 
pernicious effects in democracy to the same extent that they have good 
effects in aristocratic government. The former cause the loss of the 
spirit of citizenship/ the latter lead back to it. 

If the revenues are not distributed to them, the people must be 
shown that they are well administered; displaying them to the people is 
a way of letting the people enjoy them. The gold chain that was hung in 
Venice, the wealth carried in Rome during the triumphs, and the 
treasures kept in the temple of Saturn, all were truly the people’s 

In aristocracy it is essential above all that the nobles not levy taxes / In 
Rome, the highest order of the state had nothing to do with levying 
taxes; the second was charged with it, and even that led to serious 
drawbacks. If the nobles were to levy taxes in an aristocracy, all private 
individuals would be taxed at the discretion of the men concerned with 
matters of public business; there would be no higher tribunal to correct 
them. The nobles appointed to relieve the abuses would prefer to enjoy 
the abuses. Nobles would be like princes of despotic states, who 
confiscate the goods of whomever they please. 

Soon these profits would be regarded as a patrimony, which avarice 
would extend according to its fancy. Tax farming^ would collapse; 
public revenues would be reduced to nothing. In this way some states, 
without having received an observable setback, fall into a weakness that 
surprises their neighbors and stuns the citizens themselves. 

The laws must also prohibit nobles from engaging in commerce; 
merchants with such rank would set up all sorts of monopolies. 
Commerce is the profession of equal people, and the poorest despotic 
states are those whose prince is a merchant. 

The laws of Venice 24 prohibit nobles from engaging in any com- 
merce, for it could give them, even innocently, exorbitant wealth. 

The laws should use the most effective means to make the nobles 
render justice to the people. If the laws have not established a tribune, 
they must themselves be the tribune. 

24 [Abraham Nicolas] Amelotde la Houssaye, Htstoire du gouvemement de Ventse, part in [Loix 
du gouvemement de Venise , ii; p. 25; 1740 edn]. The Claudian law forbade senators to have 
any vessel at sea holding more than forty barrels. Livy, bk. 21 [21 .63]. 

d esprit de citayen. f les tributs. 

1 les fermes. In tax-farming, the job of collecting taxes was given, farmed out, to people 
who retained some of the taxes they collected. See 30.19. 


Part i 

Every sort of refuge from the execution of the laws ruins aristocracy, 
and tyranny is very near. 

The laws should always humble the arrogance of domination. There 
must be, for a time or forever, a magistrate to make the nobles tremble, 
like the ephors in Lacedaemonia and the state inquisitors in Venice, 
whose magistracies are subject to no formalities. This government 
needs violent springs: in Venice, a stone mouth 25 is open for every 
informer; you might say it is the mouth of tyranny. 

These tyrannical magistracies in aristocracies are related to censor- 
ship in democracy, which is no less independent by its nature. Indeed, 
the censors should not be examined about the things they have done 
during their censorship; they must be trusted, never daunted. The 
Romans were remarkable; all the magistrates 26 except the censors 
could be required to explain their conduct . 27 

Two things are pernicious in aristocracy : the extreme poverty of the 
nobles and their exorbitant wealth. To curb their poverty, they must 
above all be obliged to pay their debts promptly. To moderate their 
wealth, provisions must be made that are wise and imperceptible, in 
contrast to confiscations, agrarian laws, or the abolition of debts, which 
produce infinite evils. 

The laws should remove the right of primogeniture from the 
nobles 28 so that fortunes are always restored to equality by the continual 
division of inheritances. 

There must be no substitutions, no redemptions by one of the 
lineage, no entailed property, and no adoptions/ The means invented 
to perpetuate the greatness of families in monarchical states cannot be 
used in aristocracy . 29 

When the laws have equalized families, it remains for them to 

25 Informers throw their notes into it. 

26 See Livy, bk. 49 [45.15.7 — 8). One censor could not even be bothered by another; each 
made his notation without consulting his colleague; and when it was done otherwise, the 
censorship was, so to speak, overthrown. 

27 In Athens, the Logistae, who had all the magistrates give account of themselves, did not do 
the same themselves. 

28 It is established in this way in Venice. [Abraham Nicolas] Amelot de la Houssaye [Histoire 
du gouvemement de Venise], pp. 30-31 [Lois du gouvemement de Venise, xii; 32-34; 1740 

29 It seems that the purpose of some aristocracies is less to maintain the state than to maintain 
what they call their nobility. 

g Il ne faut point de substitutions, de retraits lignagers, de majorats, d’adoptions. 


The laws given by the legislator 

maintain the union between families. Disagreements among nobles 
should be resolved promptly; failing this, disputes between persons 
become disputes between families. Arbiters can end proceedings or 
keep them from arising. 

Finally, the laws must not favor the distinctions that vanity puts 
between families on the pretext that some are nobler or older; this 
should rank with the pettinesses of private individuals. 

One has only to cast an eye at Lacedaemonia; one will see how the 
ephors were able to humble the weaknesses of the kings, those of the 
important men, and those of the people. 


How laws are relative to their principle in monarchy 

Since honor is the principle of this government, the laws should relate 
to it. 

In monarchy they must work to sustain that nobility for whom honor 
is, so to speak, both child and father. 

They must render it hereditary, not in order to be the boundary 
dividing the power of the prince from the weakness of the people, but to 
be the bond between them. 

Substitutions, which keep goods in families, will be very useful in 
this government, though they are not suitable in the others. 

Redemption by one of the lineage will return to the noble families the 
lands that a prodigal relative has transferred. 

Noble lands, like noble persons, will have privileges. One cannot 
separate the dignity of the monarch from that of the kingdom; one can 
scarcely separate the dignity of the noble from that of his fief. 

All these prerogatives will be peculiar to the nobility and will not 
transfer to the people, unless one wants to run counter to the principle 
of the government, unless one wants to diminish the force of the 
nobility and the force of the people. 

Substitutions hamper commerce; redemption by one of the lineage 
makes an infinite number of proceedings necessary; and all the lands 
that are sold in the kingdom are more or less without a landlord for at 
least a year. Prerogatives attached to fiefs give a very burdensome 
power to those who hold them. These are the peculiar drawbacks of a 


Part i 

nobility, which disappear in the face of the general utility it procures. 
But if these are extended to the people, one uselessly runs counter to all 

In monarchies, a man can be permitted to leave most of his goods to 
one of his children; this permission is good only there. 

The laws must favor all the commerce 30 that the constitution of this 
government can allow, so that the subjects can, without being ruined, 
satisfy the ever-recurring needs of the prince and his court. 

The laws must put a certain order in the manner of levying taxes so 
that the manner is not heavier than the burdens themselves. 

The weight of burdens at first produces work; work, dejection; 
dejection, the spirit of laziness. 

30 The constitution permits commerce only to the people. See Law 3 in the Code [Corpus 
Juris Civilis, Code 4.63.3]; de commerciis el mercatoribus, which is full of good sense. 


On the promptness of execution in monarchy 

Monarchical government has a great advantage over republican; as 
public business is led by one alone, execution is more prompt. But, 
since this promptness could degenerate into haste, here the laws will 
introduce a certain slowness. They should not only favor the nature of 
each constitution, but also remedy the abuses that can result from this 
same nature. 

In monarchies Cardinal Richelieu 31 wants one to avoid the intrica- 
cies of corporations, which form difficulties at every point. Even if this 
man’s heart was not filled with despotism, his head was. 

The bodies that are the depository of the laws never obey better than 
when they drag their feet and bring into the prince’s business the 
reflection that one can hardly expect from the absence of enlighten- 
ment in the court concerning the laws of the state and the haste of the 
prince’s councils . 32 

What would have become of the finest monarchy in the world if the 

31 [Cardinal Richelieu] Testament politique (pt. 1, chap. 4, sec. 2; 243-247; 1947 edn). 
32,I For the barbarians, to delay is servile; immediate execution is proper to a king” [L.]. 
Tacitus, Annales, bk. 5 (6.32], 


The lam given by the legislator 

magistrates, by their slowness, their complaints, and their prayers, had 
not checked the course of even the virtues of its kings, when these 
monarchs, consulting only their generous souls, wanted to reward 
boundlessly services that were rendered with a similarly boundless 
courage and fidelity? 


On the excellence of monarchical government 

Monarchical government has a great advantage over despotic. As it is in 
its nature to have under the prince several orders dependent on the 
constitution, the state is more fixed, the constitution more unshakable, 
and the persons of those who govern more assured. 

Cicero 33 believes that the establishment of tribunes in Rome saved 
the republic. “Indeed,” he says, “the force of the people without a 
leader is more terrible. A leader feels that the business turns on him, he 
thinks about it; but the people in their impetuosity do not know the peril 
into which they throw themselves.” One can apply this reflection to a 
despotic state, where the people have no tribunes, and to a monarchy, 
where the people do, in a way, have tribunes. 

Indeed, one sees everywhere in the activities of despotic government 
that the people, led by themselves, always carry things as far as they can 
go; all the disorder they commit is extreme; whereas, in monarchies, 
things are very rarely carried to excess. The leaders fear for themselves; 
they fear being abandoned; the intermediate dependent powers 34 do 
not want the people to have the upper hand too much. Rarely are the 
orders of the state entirely corrupted. The prince depends on these 
orders; seditious men, who have neither the will nor the expectation of 
overturning the state, have neither the power nor the will to overthrow 
the prince. 

In these circumstances, people of wisdom and authority intervene; 
temperings are proposed, agreements are reached, corrections are 
made; the laws become vigorous again and make themselves heard. 

Thus all our histories are full of civil wars without revolutions; those 
of despotic states are full of revolutions without civil wars. 

33 [Cicero] De legibus, bk. 3 [3.10.23]. 34 See above, bk. 2, chap. 4, n. 22. 


Part i 

Those who have written the history of the civil war of some states, 
even those who have fomented them, have sufficiently proven how 
rarely princes should be suspicious of the authority they leave to certain 
orders in return for their service, for, even in their frenzy, these orders 
have longed only for the laws and their duty and have slowed the ardor 
and impetuousity of factious men more than they were able to serve 
them . 35 

Cardinal Richelieu, thinking perhaps that he had degraded the 
orders of the state too much, has recourse to the virtues of the prince 
and his ministers to sustain it , 36 and he requires so many things of them 
that, in truth, only an angel could have so much care, so much 
enlightenment, so much firmness, and so much knowledge; one can 
scarcely flatter oneself that, between now and the dissolution of 
monarchies, there could ever be such a prince and such ministers. 

Just as the peoples who live under a good police* are happier than 
those who run about in the forest, without rule and without leaders, so 
monarchs who live under the fundamental laws of their state are 
happier than despotic princes, who have nothing to rule their people’s 
hearts or their own. 

35 Memoirs of the Cardinal de Retz and other histories. 

[Cardinal Richelieu] Testament politique [pt. i, chap. 6, sec. 8; 1947 edn]. 

*See note r , bk. 4. 


Continuation of the same subject 

Let one not seek magnanimity in despotic states; there, the prince 
could not give a greatness that he himself does not have: there is no 
glory there. 

In monarchies one sees the subjects around the prince receive his 
light; there, as each one has, so to speak, a larger space, he can exercise 
those virtues that give the soul not independence but greatness. 


The laws given by the legislator 

chapter 13 

The idea of despotism 

When the savages of Louisiana want fruit, they cut down the tree and 
gather the fruit . 37 There you have despotic government. 

37 Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, bk. 2, p. 3 1 5 [Lettre du P. Gabriel Marest, Cascaskias, Illinois, 
November 9, 1712; vol. 11, 315; 1715 edn]. 


How the laws are relative to the principle of despotic 

Despotic government has fear as its principle; and not many laws jire 
needed for timid, ignorant, beaten-down people. 

Everything should turn on two or three ideas; therefore, there must 
be no new ones. When you instruct a beast you take great care not to let 
him change masters, training, or gait; you stamp his brain with two or 
three impulses and no more. 

When the prince is enclosed, he cannot end his stay among sensual 
pleasures without distressing all those who keep him there. They 
cannot allow his person and his power to pass into other hands. 
Therefore, he rarely wages war in person and scarcely dares have it 
waged by his lieutenants. 

Such a prince, accustomed to meeting no resistance in his palace, 
becomes insulted at that offered him by armed men; he is, therefore, 
usually moved by anger or vengeance. Besides, he cannot have an idea 
of true glory. Therefore, wars have to be waged there in all their natural 
fury, and the right of nations has to be less extensive than elsewhere. 

Such a prince has so many faults that one must fear exposing his 
natural foolishness to the light of day. He is hidden, and one remains in 
ignorance of his condition. Fortunately, men in these countries are 
such that they need only a name to govern them. 

Charles XII, meeting some resistance in the senate of Sweden while 
he was at Bender, wrote that he would send one of his boots to 
command it. The boot would have governed like a despotic king. 


Part j 

If the prince is taken prisoner, he is supposed dead, and another 
ascends the throne. The treaties made by the prisoner are null; his 
successor would not ratify them. Indeed, as he is the laws, the state, and 
the prince, and as from the moment he is no longer the prince, he is 
nothing, if he were not considered dead, the state would be destroyed. 

One of the things that led the Turks to decide to make their separate 
peace with Peter I was that the Muscovites told the vizir that in Sweden 
another king had been put on the throne . 38 

The preservation of the state is only the preservation of the prince, or 
rather of the palace in which he is enclosed. Nothing which does not 
directly menace the palace or the capital makes an impression on 
ignorant, arrogant, and biased minds; and, as for the sequence of 
events, they cannot follow it, foresee it, or even think about it. Politics 
with its springs and laws should here be very limited, and political 
government is as simple as civil government . 39 

Everything comes down to reconciling political and civil government 
with domestic government, the officers of the state with those of the 

Such a state will be in the best situation when it is able to consider 
itself as alone in the world, when it is surrounded by deserts and 
separated from the peoples it calls barbarians. It will be good for the 
despotism, unable to count on the militia, to destroy a part of itself. 

While the principle of despotic government is fear, its end is 
tranquillity; but this is not a peace, it is the silence of the towns that the 
enemy is ready to occupy. 

Since force is not in the state but in the army that has founded it, that 
army must be preserved in order to defend the state; however, it is 
dangerous to the prince. How then is the security of the state to be 
reconciled with the security of the person? 

I beg you to observe with what industry the Muscovite government 
seeks to escape the despotism which weighs on the government even 
more than it does on the peoples. Great bodies of troops have been 
disbanded; penalties for crimes have been lessened; tribunals have 

38 Continuation of Pufendorf, Histoire universelle, in the article on Sweden, chap. to. [This is 
in PufendorPs Histoire de Suede-, 171 1; 3, 125; 1748 edn, not Introduction a I'histoire generate 
et politique de Tunivers; the boot story’ is told in Voltaire’s Histoire du Charles XII, Book 7.) 

39 According to [John] Chardin [Voyages, “Description du gouvemement . . . des Persans,” 
chap. 3, “De l’economie politique”; 5, 237; 1811 edn], there is no Council of State in 


The laws given by the legislator 

been established; some men have begun to be versed in the laws; the 
peoples have been instructed. But there are particular causes that will 
perhaps return it to the misfortune it had wanted to flee. 

In these states, religion has more influence than in any other; it is a 
fear added to fear. In Mohammedan empires the peoples derive from 
religion a part of the astonishing respect they have for their prince. 

It is religion that slightly corrects the Turkish constitution. Those 
subjects who are not attached to the glory and greatness of the state by 
honor are attached to it by force and by religious principle. 

Of all despotic governments, none is more oppressive to itself than 
the one whose prince declares himself owner of all the land and heir to 
all his subjects. This always results in abandoning the cultivation of the 
land and, if the prince is a merchant, in ruining every kind of industry. 

In these states, nothing is repaired, nothing improved. 40 Houses are 
built only for a lifetime; one digs no ditches, plants no trees; one draws 
all from the land, and returns nothing to it; all is fallow, all is deserted. 

Do you think that laws that take away ownership of land and 
inheritance of goods will diminish the avarice and cupidity of the 
important men? No: such laws will excite their cupidity and avarice. 
The important men will be led to take a thousand oppressive measures 
because they will not consider anything their own but the gold or silver 
that they can steal or hide. 

In order that all not be lost, it is well to moderate the greediness of 
the prince by some custom. Thus, in Turkey, the prince is usually 
satisfied to take 3 per cent from the inheritances of the people. 41 But, as 
the Grand Signior gives most of the land to his militia and disposes of it 
according to his fancy, as he seizes all the inheritances of the officers of 
the empire, as, when a man dies without male children, the Grand 
Signior becomes the owner and the daughters have only the usufruct, it 
happens that most of the goods of the state are held in precarium. 

According to a law of Bantam, 42 the king takes the inheritance, 

^See [Paul] Rycaut, The History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire , p. 196 [bk. 1, 
chap. 17, pp. 29-30; 1703 edn], 

41 Concerning inheritances among the Turks, see [Georges Guillet de Saint-Georges) 
Lacedemone ancienne et nouvelle [bk. 3; p. 463; 1676 edn]. See also [Paul] Rycaut, The 
History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire [bk. 1, chap. 16; p. 28; 1703 edn]. 

42 Recueil des voyages qui ont semi a I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 1 [“Premiers 
voiages des Hollandais aux Indes Orientales”; 1, 384; 1702 edn; 1, 348; 1725 edn]. The 

'd’une maniere precaire. This is a technical term for “obtained by entreaty or favor.” 


Part i 

including the wife, the children, and the house. In order to elude the 
most cruel provision of this law, one is obliged to marry children at the 
age of eight, nine, or ten, and sometimes even younger, so that they do 
not remain an unfortunate part of the father’s inheritance. 

In states where there are no fundamental laws, the inheritance of the 
empire cannot be fixed. The prince elects from within his family or 
from outside it the one who is to wear the crown. It would be vain to 
establish inheritance by the eldest; the prince could always choose 
another. The successor is declared either by the prince himself, by his 
ministers, or by a civil war. Thus, this state has one more reason for 
dissolution than a monarchy. 

As each prince of the royal family is equally entitled to be elected, it 
happens that the one who ascends to the throne immediately has his 
brothers strangled, as in Turkey; or blinded, as in Persia; or driven 
mad, as with the Moguls; and, if these precautions are not taken, as in 
Morocco, each time the throne is vacated a horrible civil war follows. 

According to the constitutions of Muscovy , 43 the czar can choose 
whomever he wants as his successor, either from within his family or 
from outside it. The establishment of such a succession causes a 
thousand revolutions and renders the throne as unsteady as the 
succession is arbitrary. As one of the most important things for the 
people to know is the order of succession, the best one is that which is 
most obvious, such as birth and a certain order of birth. Such a 
provision checks intrigues and stifles ambition; the spirit of a weak 
prince is no longer captive, and the dying are not made to speak. 

When a fundamental law establishes the order of succession, one 
prince alone is the successor, and his brothers have no real or apparent 
right to contend for the crown. One can neither presume nor bring to 
bear a particular will of the father. It is, therefore, no more a question of 
checking the king’s brother or of killing him than it is of checking or 
killing any other subject at all. 

But in despotic states, where the prince’s brothers are equally his 
slaves and his rivals, prudence requires that they be imprisoned, 
especially in Mohammedan countries, where the religion regards 

law of Pegu is less cruel: if one has children, the king inherits only two-thirds. Ibid., vol. 3, 
p. 1 [“Second voiage d’Etienne van der Hagan,” 3, 73; 1705 edn; 3, 69; 1725 edn]. 
43 See the different constitutions, particularly that of 1 7 2 2 . [Polnoe sobranie zakovov Rossiiskoi 
imperii s 1649 goda, n0 - 3 ^ 93 > February 5, 1722, 6, 496-497; 1830 edn.] 


The laws given by the legislator 

victory or success as a judgment of god, so that no one is sovereign 
there by right, but only in fact. 

In states where the princes of the blood see that they will be enclosed 
or put to death if they do not ascend to the throne, ambition is excited 
much more than among ourselves, where princes of the blood enjoy a 
condition which, though not as satisfying to ambition, is perhaps more 
satisfying to moderate desires. 

In despotic states princes have always abused marriage. They usually 
take several wives, especially in that part of the world, Asia, where 
despotism is, so to speak, naturalized. They have so many children that 
they can scarcely have any affection for them, nor can the children have 
any for their brothers. 

The reigning family resembles the state; it is too weak, and its leader 
is too strong; it seems extensive, and it amounts to nothing. Arta- 
xerxes 44 had all his children murdered for having plotted against him. It 
is not credible that fifty children would conspire against their father, 
and still less that they would conspire because he had refused to yield 
his concubine to his eldest son. It is simpler to believe that this was 
some intrigue in those seraglios of the East, those places where artifice, 
wickedness, and deceit reign in silence and are covered by the darkness 
of night, where an old prince who becomes more imbecilic every day is 
the first prisoner of the palace. 

After all we have just said, it seems that human nature would rise up 
incessantly against despotic government. But, despite men’s love of 
liberty, despite their hatred of violence, most peoples are subjected to 
this type of government. This is easy to understand. In order to form a 
moderate government, one must combine powers, regulate them, 
temper them, make them act; one must give one power a ballast, so to 
speak, to put it in a position to resist another; this is a masterpiece of 
legislation that chance rarely produces and prudence is rarely allowed 
to produce. By contrast, a despotic government leaps to view, so to 
speak; it is uniform throughout; as only passions are needed to establish 
it, everyone is good enough for that. 

44 See Justin [Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum io.i]. 


Part i 


Continuation of the same subject 

In hot climates, where despotism usually reigns, passions make them- 
selves felt earlier and are also deadened sooner ; 45 the spirit ages more 
quickly; the perils of dissipating one’s goods are not as great; it is not as 
easy to distinguish oneself, and there is not as much commerce among 
the young, who are shut in at home; one marries younger; one can, 
therefore, come of age earlier than in our European climates. In 
Turkey, one reaches majority at the age of fifteen . 46 

The surrender of goods has no place there ; 7 in a government where 
no one is assured of his fortune, one’s lending is based on persons 
rather than on goods. 

This surrender enters by nature into moderate governments , 47 and 
above all into republics, because there one should have greater trust in 
the citizens’ integrity and because of the gentleness that should be 
inspired by a form of government that each seems to have given to 

If the legislators in the Roman republic had established the sur- 
render of goods , 48 Rome would not have been thrown into so many 
seditions aft d civil discords and would have risked neither the dangers 
of those ills nor the perils of the remedies. 

Poverty and the uncertainty of fortunes naturalizes usury in despotic 
states, as each one increases the price of his silver in proportion to the 
peril involved in lending it. Therefore, destitution is omnipresent in 
these unhappy countries; there everything is taken away including the 
recourse to borrowing.* 

It follows that a merchant cannot engage in much commerce there; 

45 See (bk. 14], “On the laws in relation to the nature of the climate.” 

^[Georges] Guillet de Saint-Georges, Lacedemone ancienne et nouvelle [bk. 3], p. 463 [1676 

47 It is the same for extensions of credit in surrenders of goods [bankruptcies] in good faith. 

48 It was established only by the Julian law , De cessione bonorum\ one avoided prison and the 
ignominious surrenders of one’s goods. [See Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 7.71.4; qui bonis 
cedere possum. See also Gaius, Institutes 3.78; this passage, however, was certainly unknown 
to M., for the manuscript containing it was not discovered until 1816 by Niebuhr. M. 
presumes, as we do today, that this is one ofjulius Caesar’s laws on the debtor problem.] 

1 cession des biens. 

*See 22.19 (note bk. 22) for a distinction between interest and usury. 


The laws given by the legislator 

he lives from day to day; if he burdened himself with many commodi- 
ties, he would lose more on the interest owed on the purchase than he 
would make on the commodities. Thus the laws of commerce scarcely 
apply there; these laws amount only to a simple police. 

Government could not be unjust without hands to exercise its 
injustices; now, it is impossible for these hands not to be used on their 
own behalf. Therefore, embezzlement is natural in despotic states. 

As this is the ordinaiy crime there, confiscations are useful. In this 
way the people are consoled; the silver from confiscations amounts to a 
substantial tax that the prince would find difficult to levy on his 
downtrodden subjects; there is not even any family in this country one 
wants to preserve. 

In moderate states, it is entirely different. Confiscations would 
render the ownership of goods uncertain; they would despoil innocent 
children; they would destroy a family man when it was only a question 
of punishing a guilty man. In republics, confiscations would have the ill 
effect of taking away the equality which is their soul, by depriving a 
citizen of his physical necessities . 49 

A Roman law 50 wants confiscation in only the most serious case of 
the crime of high treason. It would often be very wise to follow the spirit 
of this law and limit confiscation to certain crimes. In those countries 
where local custom has made provision for goods by inheritance, as 
Bodin 51 aptly states, one must confiscate only those that are acquired.' 

49 It seems to me that confiscations were too much loved in the republic of Athens. 
so Authentic, Bona damnatorum, Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.49. i o; Novel. 134,0.13); de 
bonis proscriptorum seu damnatorum. 

51 [jean Bodin, The Six Books of a Commonwealth ] bk. 5, chap. 3 [bk. 5, chap. 3; p. 581; 1962 

1 propres and acqueles. 


On the communication of power 

In despotic government, power passes entirely into the hands of the one 
to whom it is entrusted. The vizir is the despot himself, and each 
individual officer is the vizir. In monarchical government, power is not 


Part i 

applied without some mediation; the monarch, in giving it, tempers it . 52 
He distributes his authority in such a way that he never gives a part 
without retaining a greater part. 

Thus, in monarchical states individual governors of towns are not so 
answerable to the governor of the province as not to be even more 
answerable to the prince, and individual officers of military units are 
not so dependent upon the general as not to have an even greater 
dependence upon the prince. 

In most monarchical states it has wisely been established that those 
whose command is somewhat extensive are not attached to any body of 
militia, with the result that, as their command derives only from the 
particular will of the prince, who employs them or not, they are, in a 
way, in service and, in a way, outside it. 

This is incompatible with despotic government. For, if those who 
had no current employment nevertheless had prerogatives and titles, 
there would be men in the state who were great in themselves, and this 
would run counter to the nature of this government. 

If the governor of a town were independent of the pasha, there would 
have to be constant temperings to accommodate the two of them, an 
absurdity in a despotic government. And, in addition, if an individual 
governor could disobey, how could the pasha personally answer for his 
province? , . 

In this government authority cannot be counter-balanced; neither 
that of the lowest magistrate nor that of the despot. In moderate 
countries law is everywhere wise; it is known everywhere, and the 
lowest of the magistrates can follow it. But in despotism, where law is 
only the will of the prince, even if the prince is wise, how can a 
magistrate follow a will that he does not know? He must follow his own. 

Furthermore, as law is only what the prince wants, and the prince is 
able to want only what he knows, surely there must be an infinite 
number of people who want in his name and in the same way he does. 

Finally, as law is the momentary will of the prince, those who want in 
his name necessarily want instantly as he does. 

S2 “The light of Phoebus is usually sweeter/ As it sets” [L.]. [Seneca, Tragedies, Troades 
it. 1 140-1 141.] 


The laws given by the legislator 


On presents 

In despotic countries the usage is that one does not approach a 
superior, even a king, without giving him a present. The emperor of the 
Moguls 53 does not accept requests from his subjects unless he has 
received something from them. These princes go so far as to corrupt 
their own pardons. 

It should be this way in a government where no one is a citizen, in a 
government where one is filled with the idea that the superior owes 
nothing to the inferior, in a government where men believe themselves 
bound only by the chastisements that the former give the latter, in a 
government where there is little public business and where one is rarely 
introduced into the presence of an important man to request something 
of him, and even more rarely to complain to him. 

Presents are an odious thing in a republic because virtue has no need 
of them. In a monarchy, honor is a stronger motive than presents. But 
in the despotic state, where there is neither honor nor virtue, one can 
decide to act only in anticipation of the comforts of life. 

In accordance with his ideas about the republic, Plato 54 wanted those 
who received presents for doing their duty to be punished by death. One 
must not accept them , he states, either for good things or for bad. 

It was a bad law of the Romans 55 that permitted magistrates to accept 
small presents 56 provided they did not exceed one hundred ecus per 
year. Those to whom nothing is given desire nothing; those to whom a 
little is given soon desire a little more and then a great deal. Besides, it is 
easier to convict the one who ought to take nothing but takes something 
than it is to convict the one who takes more when he ought to take less 
and who always finds plausible pretexts, excuses, causes and reasons 
for doing so. 

^Recueil da voyaga qui ont servi a Vetablissement de la Compagnie da Inda, vol. 1 , p. 80 [“Avis 
sur le Commerce des Indes Orientates. Description de leur maniere de vivre”; 1, 
lxxxviii; 1725 edn]. 

54 [Plato] Lams , bk. 12 [9550-d]. 

“Law 6, par. 2, Digat [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digat]; de lege Julia repetundarum. 

56 Munuscula: “A small gift.” 


Part i 


On rewards given by the sovereign 

In despotic governments, where, as we have said, one decides to act 
only in anticipation of the comforts of life, the prince who gives rewards 
has only silver to give. In a monarchy, where honor alone reigns, the 
prince would reward only with distinctions were it not that the 
distinctions established by honor are joined with a luxury that necess- 
arily produces needs; therefore, the prince rewards with honors that 
lead to fortune. But in a republic under the reign of virtue, a motive that 
suffices in itself and excludes all others, the state rewards only with 
testimonies to that virtue. 

It is a general rule that great rewards in a monarchy and a republic 
are a sign of their decadence because they prove that the principles 
have been corrupted: on the one hand, the idea of honor no longer has 
as much force, on the other, citizenship has been weakened ." 1 

The worst Roman emperors were those who gave the most: for 
example, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Otho, Vitellius, Commodus, 
Heliogabulus, and Caracalla. The best, such as Augustus, Vespasian, 
Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Pertinax, were frugal. Under 
the good emperors, the state regained its principles; the treasure of 
honor replaced other treasures. 

m qualitc de citoyen. 


New consequences of the principles of the three governments 

I cannot bring myself to finish this book without making some further 
applications of my three principles. 

first question. Should the laws force a citizen to accept public 
employments? I say that they should in republican government and not 
in monarchical. In the former, magistracies are testimonies to virtue; 
they are depositories entrusted by the homeland to a citizen who should 
live, act, and think only for its sake; he cannot, therefore, refuse them . 57 

57 Plato, in his Republic , bk, 8 [557c], puts such refusals among the marks of corruption of the 


The lam given by the legislator 

In the latter, magistracies are testimonies to honor; now, such is the 
eccentricity of honor that it is pleased to accept magistracies only when 
it wants and in the manner it wants. 

The late king of Sardinia 58 punished those who refused the dignities 
and employments of his state; unwittingly he followed republican ideas. 
His manner of governing, however, proves sufficiently that this was not 
his intention. 

second question. Is it a good maxim whereby a citizen can be 
obliged to accept a place in the army below one he has previously held? 
Among the Romans the captain often served the next year under his 
lieutenant . 59 This is because virtue here asks for the continuous 
sacrifice to the state of oneself and one’s aversions. But in monarchies, 
honor, true or false, cannot suffer that which it calls degradation. 

In despotic governments where honor, posts, and ranks are equally 
abused, it is indifferent whether a lout is made from a prince or a prince 
from a lout. 

third question. Shall civil and military employments be given 
to one person? They must be united in a republic and separated in a 
monarchy. In republics it would be very dangerous to make the 
profession of arms a particular estate distinct from that of civil 
functions; and, in monarchies, there would be no less peril in giving the 
two functions to the same person. 

One takes up arms, in the republic, only to defend the laws and the 
homeland; it is because one is a citizen that one becomes, for a time, a 
soldier. If these were two distinct estates, the one who bore arms and 
believed himself a citizen would come to feel he was only a soldier. 

In monarchies, the object of men of war is only glory, or at least 
honor or fortune. One should be very careful not to give civil employ- 
ments to such men; they must, on the contrary, be contained by civil 
magistrates, and they must not have at the same time both the people’s 
trust and the force to abuse it . 60 

republic. In his Laws, bk. 6 [756b-e], he wants to punish them by a fine. In Venice, they are 
punished by exile. 

S8 Victor Amedeus (Victor Amedeus II, 1666-1732]. 

59 When some centurions asked the people what employments they had had, one centurion 
said, “It is just, my companions, for you to esteem as honorable any post in which you 
defend the republic,” Livy, bk. 42 [42.34.15]. 

““Lest political power be transferred to the best of the nobles, Gallienus forbade the senate 
military service, and even entry to the army” [L.]. Aurelius Victor, De viris illustribus [, De 
Caesanbus 33.34}. 


Part i 

In a nation where the republic hides under the form of monarchy, 
observe how a particular estate for fighting men is feared and how the 
warrior still remains a citizen or even a magistrate, so that these titles 
serve as a pledge to the homeland so that it is never forgotten. 

That division of the magistracies into civil and military ones, which 
the Romans made after the loss of the republic, was not arbitrary. It 
followed from a change in the Roman constitution; it was in the nature 
of monarchical government. And in order to temper the military 
government, the emperors that succeeded Augustus 61 were obliged to 
finish what he had only begun . 62 

Thus Procopius, rival of Valens for the empire, failed to grasp this 
when, giving the dignity of proconsul 63 to Hormisdas, prince of the 
royal blood of Persia, he returned to this magistracy its former 
command of the armies; but perhaps he had particular reasons for this. 
A man who aspires to sovereignty seeks what is useful to the state less 
than what is useful to his cause. 

fourth question. Is it suitable for posts to be sold? They 
should not be sold in despotic states, where the prince must place or 
displace subjects in an instant. 

Venality is good in monarchical states, because it provides for 
performing as a family vocation what one would not want to undertake 
for virtue, and because it destines each to his duty and renders the 
orders of the stafe more permanent. Suidas 64 aptly says that Anastasius 
had made a kind of aristocracy of the empire by selling all the 

Plato 65 cannot endure such venality. “It is,” he says, “as if, on a ship, 
one made someone a pilot or a sailor for his silver. Is it possible that the 
rule is good only for guiding a republic and bad in all other life 
employments?” But Plato is speaking of a republic founded on virtue, 
and we are speaking of a monarchy. Now, in a monarchy, where, if the 
posts were not sold by a public regulation, the courtiers’ indigence and 
avidity would sell them all the same, chance will produce better 

61 Augustus removed from the senators, proconsuls, and governors, the right to bear arms. 

Cass. Dio [Historia Romana], bk. 33 [53.12.2-3). 

62 Constantine. See Zosimus [Historiae], bk. 2 [2.33]. 

63 “In accord with ancient custom and the rule of war” [L.]. Ammianus Marcellinus [/te 
gestae], bk. 26 [26.8.12]. 

64 Fragments drawn from th tAtnbassades of Constantine Porphyrogenitus [Suidas, Lexicon , 
“Anastasios,” 1, 187; 1938 edn). 

65 [Plato] Republic, bk. 8 [551c]. 


The laws given by the legislator 

subjects than the choice of the prince. Finally, advancing oneself by 
way of wealth inspires and maintains industry , 66 a thing badly needed in 
this kind of government. 

fifth question. In which government must there be censors? 
There must be censors in a republic where the principle of government 
is virtue. It is not only crimes that destroy virtue, but also negligence, 
mistakes, a certain slackness in the love of the homeland, dangerous 
examples, the seeds of corruption, that which does not run counter to 
the laws but eludes them, that which does not destroy them but 
weakens them: all these should be corrected by censors. 

It is astonishing that an Areopagite was punished for killing a 
sparrow that had taken refuge in his breast while in flight from a hawk. 
It is surprising that the Areopagus sent to his death a child who had put 
out the eyes of a bird. Notice that the question is not that of 
condemning a crime but of judging mores in a republic founded on 

In monarchies there must be no censors; monarchies are founded on 
honor, and the nature of honor is to have the whole universe as a 
censor. Every man who commits a breach of honor is subject to the 
reproaches of even those without honor. 

There censors would be spoiled by the very men they ought to 
correct. Their opposition to the corruption of a monarchy would do no 
good; the corruption of a monarchy would be too strong for them. 

It is manifest that there must be no censors in despotic governments. 
The example of China seems to be an exception to this rule, but in the 
course of this work we shall see the singular reasons for its establish- 
ment there. 

66 Laziness of Spain: all employments there are given out. 

7 * 

jfe ^ .cfe jfe. jfe jfe dfc jfe jfe zfe jfe jfe. ife jfe ^fe ^fe 4fe ^fe jfe jfe 

0*»00©0*ft000 OOff«OOCvOCOOCiOOOi5>«\OOOCV 


Consequences of the principles of 
the various governments in relation to 
the simplicity of civil and criminal laws, 
the form of judgments, and the 
establishment of penalties 


On the simplicity of civil laws in the various governments 

Monarchical government does not admit of such simple laws as does 
despotic government. In monarchical government there must be 
tribunals. These tribunals give decisions. These decisions should be 
preserved; they should be learned, so that one judges there today as one 
judged yesterday and so that the citizens’ property and life are as secure 
and fixed as the very constitution of the state. 

In a monarchy, the administering of a justice" that hands down 
decisions not only about life and goods, but also about honor, requires 
scrupulous inquiries. The fastidiousness of the judge grows as more 
issues are deposited 4 with him and as he pronounces upon greater 

In the laws of these states, therefore, one must not be astonished to 
find so many rules, restrictions, and extensions that multiply particular 
cases and seem to make an art of reasoning itself. 

The differences in rank, origin, and condition that are established in 
monarchical government often carry with them distinctions in the 
nature of men’s goods, and the laws regarding the constitution of this 
state can increase the number of these distinctions. Thus, among 
ourselves, goods are inherited, acquired, or seized; dotal, paraphernal; 
paternal and maternal; those of personal estates of several kinds; free, 

"See note bk. 2 . h See note-', bk. 2. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

substituted; those of the lineage or not; noble, freely held, or common 
goods; ground rents, or those given a price in silver. Each sort of goods 
is subject to particular rules; these must be followed in order to make 
disposition of the goods, which further removes simplicity. 

In our governments fiefs became hereditary. The nobility had to 
have had a certain standing so that the owner of a fief would be in a 
position to serve the prince. This produced many variations; for 
example, there are countries in which fiefs could not be divided among 
brothers; in others, younger brothers could receive a more extensive 
provision of their own. 

The monarch, who knows each of his provinces, can set up various 
laws or permit different customs. But the despot knows nothing and 
can attend to nothing; he must approach everything in a general way; he 
governs with a rigid will that is the same in all circumstances; all is 
flattened beneath his feet. 

In monarchies, in proportion to the number of judgments made by 
tribunals, jurisprudence is responsible for decisions that are sometimes 
inconsistent, because successive judges think differently, or because 
suits are sometimes well and sometimes poorly defended, or finally, 
because an infinity of abuses slips into whatever is touched by the hands 
of men. This is a necessary ill that the legislator corrects from time to 
time, as being an ill that is contrary even to the spirit of moderate 
governments. For when one is obliged to turn to the tribunals, it must 
be because of the nature of the constitution and not because of the 
inconsistency and uncertainty of the laws. 

There must be privileges in governments where there are necessarily 
distinctions between persons. This further diminishes simplicity and 
produces a thousand exceptions. 

One of the privileges least burdensome to society and least of all to 
him who gives it is that of being allowed to plead before one tribunal 
rather than another. Otherwise there are new suits, that is, those which 
seek to ascertain the tribunal before which one must plead. 

The peoples in despotic states present a very different case. I do not 
know on what matter the legislator could enact or the magistrate judge 
in these countries. It follows from the fact that the lands belong to the 
prince that there are scarcely any civil laws concerning the ownership of 
lands. It follows from the sovereign’s right to inherit that there are no 
laws concerning inheritance. Because trade belongs exclusively to the 
despot in some countries, all sorts of laws concerning commerce are 


Part i 

rendered useless. Because marriages are contracted there with female 
slaves, there are scarcely any civil laws about dowries or the privileges 
of wives. Another result of the prodigious multitude of slaves there is 
that scarcely anyone has a will of his own, and consequently scarcely 
anyone is answerable for his conduct before a judge. Most moral 
actions, which are nothing but the wills of the father, the husband, or 
the master, are regulated by them and not by magistrates. 

I have almost forgotten to say that since what we call honor is scarcely 
known in these states, suits concerning honor, such an important 
subject among us, do not arise there. Despotism is self-sufficient; 
everything around it is empty. Thus when travelers describe countries 
to us where despotism reigns, they rarely speak of civil laws . 1 

Therefore, all occasions for disputes and proceedings are taken away 
there. This is, in part, what makes pleaders so mistreated; the injustice 
of their request appears baldly, being neither hidden, mitigated, nor 
protected by an infinity of laws. 

1 No written law has been discovered in Mazulipatam. See the Recueil des voyages qui one servi 
a I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 4, pt. i, p. 391 [“Voyage de Pierre Van den 
Broeck”; 4,420; 1705 edn; 4, 392; 1725 edn]. In judgments, the Indians go only by certain 
customs. The Veda and other such books contain religious precepts but not civil laws. 
Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, 14 [Lettre du P. Bouchet, Pontichery, October 2, 1714; 14, 
326-332; 1720 edn]. 



On the simplicity of criminal laws in the various 

It is constantly said that justice should be rendered everywhere as it is in 
Turkey. Can it be that the most ignorant of all peoples have seen clearly 
the one thing in the world that it is most important for men to know? 

If you examine the formalities of justice in relation to the difficulties 
a citizen endures to have his goods returned to him or to obtain 
satisfaction for some insult, you will doubtless find the formalities too 
many; if you consider them in their relation to the liberty and security of 
the citizens, you will often find them too few, and you will see that the 
penalties, expenses, delays, and even the dangers of justice are the 
price each citizen pays for his liberty. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

In Turkey, where one pays very little attention to the fortune, life, or 
honor of the subjects, all disputes are speedily concluded in one way or 
another. The manner of ending them is not important, provided that 
thev are ended. The pasha is no sooner informed than he has the 
pleaders bastinadoed according to his fancy and sends them back 

And, for one to have the passions of pleaders would be quite 
dangerous there; these passions presuppose an ardent desire to see 
justice done, a hatred, an active spirit, and a steadfastness in pursuit of 
justice. All this should be avoided in a government where there must be 
no feeling other than fear and where everything leads abruptly and 
unforeseeably to revolutions. Each man should know that the 
magistrate must not hear of him and that he owes his safety only to his 

But in moderate states where the head of even the lowest citizen is 
esteemed, his honor and goods are removed from him only after long 
examination; he is deprived of his life only when the homeland itself 
attacks it; and when the homeland attacks his life, it gives him every 
possible means of defending it. 

Thus, when a man makes himself more absolute , 2 his first thought is 
to simplify the laws. In these states he begins by being struck more by 
particular drawbacks than by the liberty of the subjects, with which he is 
not concerned. 

One can see that there must be at least as many formalities in 
republics as in monarchies. In both governments, formalities increase 
in proportion to the importance given to the honor, fortune, life, and 
liberty of the citizens. 

Men are all equal in republican government; they are equal in 
despotic government; in the former, it is because they are everything; in 
the latter, it is because they are nothing. 

2 Caesar, Cromwell, and so many others. 


Part i 


In which governments and in which cases one should judge 
according to a precise text of the law 

The more the government approaches a republic, the more the manner 
of judging becomes fixed; and it was a vice of the Lacedaemonian 
republic that the ephors judged arbitrarily without laws to guide them. 
In Rome, the first consuls judged like the ephors; the drawbacks of this 
were felt, and precise laws were made. 

In despotic states there is no law; the judge himself is the rule. In 
monarchical states there is a law; and, when it is precise, the judge 
follows it; when it is not, he seeks its spirit. In republican government, it 
is in the nature of the constitution for judges to follow the letter of the 
law. No law can be interpreted to the detriment of a citizen when it is a 
question of his goods, his honor, or his life. 

In Rome, judges pronounced only that the accused was guilty of a 
certain crime, and the penalty was found in the law, as can be seen from 
various laws that were made. In England likewise, the jury decides 
whether the accused is guilty or not of the deed brought before it; and, 
if he is declared guilty, the judge pronounces the penalty imposed by 
law foj this deed; and he needs only his eyes for that. 


On the manner of forming judgments 

The different ways of forming judgments follow from this. In 
monarchies judges assume the manner of arbiters; they deliberate 
together, they share their thoughts, they come to an agreement; one 
modifies his opinion to make it like another’s; opinions with the least 
support are incorporated into the two most widely held. This is not in 
the nature of a republic. In Rome and in the Greek towns, judges did 
not communicate with each other; each gave his opinion in one of three 
ways, I absolve, I condemn , It is not evident to me* because the people 
judged or were thought to judge. But the people are not jurists; the 

3 Non liquet: “It is not evident.” 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

modifications and temperings of arbiters are not for them; they must be 
presented with a single object, a deed, and only one deed, and they have 
only to see whether they should condemn, absolve, or remand 

The Romans, following the example of the Greeks, introduced 
formulae for actions at law , 4 and established that it was necessary for 
each suit to be managed by the action proper to it. This was necessary 
to their manner of judging; the state of the question had to be fixed in 
order to keep it before the people. Otherwise, in the course of an 
important suit, the state of the question would continually change and 
become unrecognizable. 

Thus it followed that judges, among the Romans, would admit only 
the specific request without increasing, diminishing, or modifying 
anything. But the praetors imagined other formulae for the guidance of 
actions, which were called in good faith , 5 where the manner of pro- 
nouncing judgment was more at the disposition of the judge. This 
arrangement was more in agreement with the spirit of monarchy. Thus, 
French legal experts say: In France, all actions are in good faith . 6 

4 “Such legal actions were instituted just as the people wished, for they wanted them to be 
both solemn and certain” [L.]. Law 2, para. 6, Digest \Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 1 .2.2.6]; 
de origirte juris. 

5 In which these words were included: ex bona fide : “in good faith.” 

6 There even the one of whom more is demanded than he owes is condemned to pay the 
expenses unless he has offered and consigned what he owes. 


In which governments the sovereign can be the judge 

Machiavelli 7 attributes the loss of liberty in Florence to the fact that the 
people as a body did not judge the crimes of high treason committed 
against them, as was done in Rome. Eight judges were established for 
this: But, states Machiavelli, few are corrupted by few. I would gladly 
adopt this great man’s maxim; but, as in these cases of treason, political 
interest forces civil interest, so to speak (for it is always a drawback if the 
people themselves judge their offenses), the laws must provide, as 

7 [Niccolo Machiavelli] Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy, bk. 1, chap. 7 [bk. 1, chap. 7]. 


Part i 

much as they can, for the security of individuals in order to remedy this 

Using this idea, the Roman legislators did two things: they permitted 
accused men to exile themselves 8 before the judgment 9 and they 
wanted the goods of condemned men to be made sacred so that the 
people could not confiscate them. Other limitations placed on the 
people’s power to judge will be seen in Book 1 1. 

Solon knew very well how to curb the people’s abuses of their power 
when judging crimes; he wanted the Areopagus to review the suit, and 
if it believed the accused to be unjustly acquitted , 10 it accused him again 
before the people; and if it believed him unjustly condemned , 11 it 
checked the execution and had the suit judged again: an admirable law, 
which subjected the people to the censure of the magistracy they most 
respected and to their own censure as well! 

It will be well to slow down such suits, especially after the accused is 
made a prisoner, so that the people will be calmed and will judge with 
cool heads. 

In despotic states the prince himself can judge. He cannot judge in 
monarchies: the constitution would be destroyed and the intermediate 
dependent powers reduced to nothing; one would see all the formali- 
ties of judgments cease; fear would invade all spirits; one would see 
pallor on/£very face; there would be no more trust, honor, love, 
security, or monarchy. 

Here are some other reflections. In monarchical states, the prince is 
the party who pursues those who are accused and has them punished or 
acquitted; if he himself judged, he would be both judge and party. 

In these same states, the prince often receives what is confiscated; if 
he judged the crimes, he would again be both judge and party. 

Moreover, he would lose the finest attribute of his sovereignty, 
which is that of pardoning . 12 It would be senseless for him both to make 
and unmake his own judgments; he would not want to contradict 

8 This is well explained in the oration of Cicero, Pro Caedna [too], at the end. 

9 It was an Athenian law, as appears from Demosthenes. Socrates refused to use it. 
10 Demosthenes [ Orationes ], De Corona , p. 494, Frankfurt edition of 1604 [18.133]. 

11 See Flavius Philostratus, Vitae sophistarum, Aeschines, bk. 1 [508 [Olearius]]. 

12 Plato does not think that the kings, who are, as he says, priests, can be present at judgments 
in which condemnations to death, exile, or imprisonment are made [Plato, Epistolae 8, 
356e— 3 57a]. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

Beyond the confusion into which this would throw all ideas, one 
would not know if a man had been acquitted or pardoned. 

Louis XIII wanted to be the judge in the case against the Duke de la 
Valette 13 and for this purpose called into his chambers some officers of 
the parlement and state councillors; as the king forced them to give an 
opinion on the warrant for arrest, the president of Believre said “that he 
saw something strange in this business where a prince would give an 
opinion in the case of one of his subjects; that kings had kept only 
pardons for themselves and that they had left condemnations to their 
officers. And Your Majesty would be glad to see before him at the bar a 
man, who by your judgment would go to his death in an hour! That the 
countenance of the prince, who pardons, cannot endure this, that his 
visage alone suspended the interdicts of churches, and that one should 
never be anything but satisfied on leaving the presence of the prince.” 
When the merits of the case were judged, the same president said in his 
opinion, “It is an unexampled judgment, not to say contrary to all 
examples from the past to the present, that a King of France as judge 
has, by his opinion, condemned a gentleman to death .” 14 

Judgments rendered by the prince would be an inexhaustible source 
of injustices and abuses; the courtiers would extort his judgments by 
their badgering. Some of the Roman emperors had a craze for judging; 
no reigns stunned the universe more by their injustices than these. 

Tacitus says , 15 “As Claudius had taken for himself the judgment of 
suits and the functions of the magistrates, he occasioned all sorts of 
rapine.” Thus when Nero, on becoming emperor after Claudius, 
wanted to win over men’s spirits, he declared “that he would take care 
not to be the judge of all suits so that the accusers and the accused, 
within the walls of a palace, should not be exposed to the iniquitous 
power of a few freed men .” 16 

“In the reign of Arcadius,” says Zosimus , 17 “the nation of slanderers 
increased, surrounded the court, and infected it. It was assumed, when 
a man died, that he had left no children ; 18 his goods were given by a 

13 See the account of the case against the Duke de la Valette. It is printed in [Claude de 
Bourdeille, Comte de] Montresor, Memoirs, vol. 2, p. 62 [2, 296-341; 1723 edn], 

M This was later changed. See the same account [Claude de Bourdeille, Comte de 
Montresor, Memoirs, 2, 307-308, 326; 1723 edn]. 

; [ 1 acitus] Annales, bk. 11 [11.5]. 16 Ibid. [Tacitus, Annales], bk. 13 [13.4]. 

7 [Zosimus] Historiae , bk. 5 [5.24.17-19; 279-280 Bekker]. 

There was the same disorder under Theodosius the Younger. 


Part i 

rescript of the emperor. For, as the prince was strangely dull-witted 
and the empress venturesome to excess, she served the insatiable 
avarice of her domestics and confidantes; so that for moderate people 
nothing was more desirable than death.” 

“Formerly,” says Procopius , 19 “there were few people at court, but 
under Justinian, since the judges were no longer free to render justice, 
the tribunals were deserted, while the prince’s palace resounded with 
the clamor of the parties soliciting suits.” Everyone knows how 
judgments, and even laws, were sold there. 

The laws are the prince’s eyes; he sees with them what he could not 
see without them. Does he want to perform the function of the 
tribunals? Then he works not for himself, but for those who would 
deceive him. 

19 [Procopius] Anecdota sive Historia arcana [30.30-31]. 


That , in a monarchy , the ministers should not judge 

It is also a great drawback in a monarchy for the ministers of the prince 
themselves to^udge contested suits. Today we still see states in which 
there are innumerable judges to decide suits concerning the fisc and 
the ministers (who would believe it!) still want to judge them/ Reflec- 
tions on this subject crowd upon me; I shall offer just one. 

There is, by the nature of things, a kind of contradiction between the 
monarch’s council and his tribunals. The king’s council should be 
composed of few persons, and the tribunals of the judiciary require 
many. The reason is that in the king’s council one must undertake 
public business with a certain passion and pursue it likewise; this can be 
expected only from four or five men who make it their business. 
Tribunals of the judiciary must, on the contrary, be coolheaded and, in 
a way, neutral in all matters of business. 

'Translators’ parentheses. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

chapter 7 

On the single magistrate 

Such a magistrate can have a place only in despotic government. In 
Roman history one sees to what point a single judge can abuse his 
power. How could Appius in his tribunal not have despised the laws, 
since he violated even the law he had made ? 20 Livy tells us of this 
decemvir’s iniquitous distinction. He had induced a man to claim 
before him that Virginia was his slave; Virginia’s relatives asked that, by 
virtue of his law, she be returned to them until final judgment. He 
declared that his law had been made only to benefit the father and that, 
as Virginius was absent, it was not applicable . 21 

20 See Law 2, para. 24 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 1.2.24]; de origine juris et omnium 
magistratuum et successions prudentum. 

21 “Since the father of the girl was absent, he thought it an opportune moment to commit an 
injustice” [L.]. Livy, decade 1, bk. 3 [3.44.5]. 


On accusations in the various governments 

In Rome 22 citizens were permitted to accuse one another. This was 
established in the spirit of the republic, where each citizen should have 
boundless zeal for the public good, where it is assumed that each 
citizen has all the rights of the homeland in his hands. The maxims of 
the republic were followed under the emperors, and one saw a dreadful 
kind of man, a band of informers, immediately appear. Whoever had 
many vices and many talents, a common soul and an ambitious spirit, 
would seek out a criminal whose condemnation might please the 
prince; this was the way to advance to honors and to fortune , 23 a thing 
that we never see among ourselves. 

At present we have an admirable law; it wants the prince, who is 
established in order to see to the execution of the laws, to appoint an 
officer in each tribunal who will pursue all crimes in his name; thus the 
office of informer is unknown among us. And if this public avenger 

22 And in many other cities. 

23 See in Tacitus [Annates 4.30] the rewards granted to these informers. 


Part i 

were suspected of abusing his ministry, he would be obliged to name 
the one who had made the denunciation. 

In Plato’s Laws , 24 those who neglect to alert or aid magistrates are to 
be punished. This would not be suitable today. The party for the public 
keeps watch for the citizens; it acts, and they are tranquil/ 

24 [Plato, Lams] bk. 9 [856b— c]. 

d partie publique . For Montesquieu’s understanding of the historical development of the 
public prosecutor see 28.36 (note q , bk. 28). 


On the severity of penalties in the various governments 

Severity in penalties suits despotic government, whose principle is 
terror, better than monarchies and republics, which have honor and 
virtue for their spring. 

In moderate states, love of the homeland, shame, and fear of blame 
are motives that serve as restraints and so can check many crimes. The 
greatest penalty for a bad action will be to convicted of it. Therefore 
in moderate states civil laws will make corrections more easily and will 
not need as much force. 

In these states a good legislator will insist less on punishing crimes 
than on preventing them; he will apply himself more to giving mores 
than to inflicting punishments. 

Chinese writers have perpetually observed 25 that, in their empire, 
the more severe the punishments, the nearer the revolution. This is the 
case because punishments increased in severity to the extent that mores 
were lost. 

It would be easy to prove that in all or nearly all the states of Europe 
penalties have decreased or increased in proportion as one has 
approached or departed from liberty. 

In despotic countries one is so unhappy that one fears death more 
than one cherishes life; therefore, punishments should be more severe 
there. In moderate states one fears the loss of life more than one dreads 
death as such; punishments that simply suppress life are sufficient 

25 1 shall show later that China, in this respect, is a case of a republic or a monarchy. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

Extremely happy men and extremely unhappy men are equally- 
disposed to harshness: witness monks and conquerors. Only the 
middling sort, and the mixture of good fortune with bad, offer 
gentleness and pity. 

One can find in the various nations what one sees in men taken 
individually. There is equal cruelty among savage peoples, who lead a 
hard life, and among the peoples of despotic governments where 
fortune favors only one man exorbitantly and abuses all the rest. 
Gentleness reigns in moderate governments. 

When we read in histories the examples of the atrocious justice of the 
sultans, we feel with a kind of sorrow the ills of human nature. 

In moderate governments a good legislator can form anything into 
penalties. Is it not quite extraordinary that in Sparta one of the principal 
penalties forbade a man to lend his wife to another or to receive that 
man’s wife or ever to be in his own house except with virgins? In a word, 
whatever the law calls a penalty is in effect a penalty. 


On the old French laws 

In the old French laws one surely finds the spirit of monarchy. In cases 
involving pecuniary penalties, non-nobles are punished less than 
nobles . 26 It is quite the contrary for crimes ; 27 the noble loses his honor 
and his voice at court while the villein, who has no honor, is punished 

26 “When complying with a decree of the court, the non-noblemen owe a fine of forty sous 
and the noblemen sixty pounds.” [Jean Boutillier], Le Grand CoustumierLa Somme rural , 
bk. 2,p. 198; Got. ednof 1512 [197 vj; [bk. 2, tit. 4o,“D’un nobles hommes meffaire”; pp. 
864-865; 1621 edn]; and Beaumanoir [Coutumes de Beauvaisis], chap. 61, p. 309 [#1720]. 
27 See the Consetl of Pierre de Fontaines, chap. 13, chiefly art. 22 [chap. 13, art. 22; pp. 79- 
80; 1846 edn]. 


Part i 


That when a people is virtuous few penalties are needed 

The Romans were a people of integrity. Their integrity was so strong 
that often the legislator needed only to show them the good to have 
them follow it. It seemed that it was enough to give them counsels 
instead of ordinances. 

Almost all the penalties in the royal laws and in the laws of the 
Twelve Tables were removed during the republic, either in accordance 
with the Valerian law , 28 or as a consequence of the Porcian law . 29 One 
observes that the republic was no more poorly ruled and that no injury 
to its police resulted. 

The Valerian law, which forbade the magistrates to attack in any way 
a citizen who had appealed to the people, inflicted on one who 
transgressed the law only the penalty of a reputation for wickedness . 30 

28 It was made by Valerius Publicola soon after the expulsion of the kings; it was renewed 
twice, both times by magistrates of the same family, as Livy says, bk. to [10.9.3]. h was not 
a question of giving it more force, but of perfecting its provisions. “More thoroughly 
inviolate” [L.], Livy says, ibid. [10.9.3]. 

29 “The Porcian Law was made to protect the citizens” [L.] [Livy 10.9.4]. It was made in 
Roman year 454 [300 B.c.]. 

30 “It added nothing ot^ef than that it be deemed a wicked act” [L.], Livy [10.9.5]. 


On the power of penalties 

Experience has shown that, in countries where penalties are gentle, the 
citizen’s spirit is struck by them as it is elsewhere by heavy ones. 

Is some defect felt in a state? A violent government wants to correct it 
instantly; and, instead of considering that the old laws should be 
executed, one establishes a cruel penalty that checks the ill then and 
there. But the spring of the government wears down; the imagination 
becomes inured to this heavier penalty as it had to the lesser, and as fear 
of the lesser penalty diminishes, one is soon forced to establish the 
heavier in every case. Highway robberies were common in some states; 
one wanted to check them; the punishment of the wheel was invented, 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

which halted them for a while. Since that time there have been 
robberies on the highways as before. 

In our time desertion has been very frequent; the death penalty has 
been established against deserters, yet desertion has not diminished. 
There is a very natural reason for this: a soldier, accustomed to risking 
his life every day, despises danger or flatters himself that he despises it. 
He is accustomed to fearing shame every day; the penalty of marking 
him for life should have been kept . 31 It was claimed that the penalty had 
been increased and in reality it had been diminished. 

Men must not be led to extremes; one should manage the means that 
nature gives us to guide them. If one examines the cause of every 
instance of laxity, one will see that it is unpunished crimes and not 
moderated penalties. 

Let us follow nature, which has given men shame for their scourge, 
and let the greatest part of the penalty be the infamy of suffering it. 

If there are countries in which shame is not an effect of punishment, 
it is a result of tyranny, which has inflicted the same penalties on 
scoundrels as on good people. 

And, if you see other countries in which men are restrained only by 
cruel punishments, reckon again that this arises largely from the 
violence of the government, which has employed these punishments 
for slight transgressions. 

A legislator who wants to correct an ill often thinks only of that 
correction; his eye is on that object and not on its defects. Once the ill 
has been corrected, only the harshness of the legislator is seen; but a 
vice produced by the harshness remains in the state; spirits are 
corrupted; they have become accustomed to despotism. 

After Lysander 32 had won a victory over the Athenians, the prisoners 
were judged; the Athenians were accused of having hurled the captives 
from two galleys over a precipice and of having resolved, in full 
assembly, to cut off the hands of any prisoners they might take. The 
Athenians were all slaughtered except Adeimantus, who had opposed 
the Athenian decree. Before sending Philocles to his death, Lysander 
reproached him for depraving the spirit of the Athenians and for giving 
lessons in cruelty to all Greece. 

“After the Argives had had fifteen hundred citizens put to death,” 

31 The nose was broken, and the ears cut off. 

32 Xenophon, Hellenica, bk. 2 [2.1. 31-32]. 


Part i 

says Plutarch , 33 “the Athenians ordered expiatory sacrifices so that the 
gods would turn the hearts of the Athenians from such a cruel 

There are two kinds of corruption: one, when the people do not 
observe the laws, the other, when they are corrupted by the laws; the 
latter is an incurable ill because it lies in the remedy itself. 

33 [Plutarch] Moralia, Praecepta gerendae republicae [814b]. 


Powerlessness of Japanese laws 

Extravagant penalties can corrupt despotism itself. Let us look at Japan. 

In Japan almost all crimes are punished by death 34 because dis- 
obedience to such a great emperor as Japan’s is an enormous crime. It 
is not a question of correcting the guilty man but of avenging the prince. 
These ideas are drawn from servitude and derive chiefly from the fact 
that the emperor is the owner of all the goods and so almost all crimes 
are committed directly against his interests. 

Lies told tp the magistrates are punished by death ; 35 a thing that is 
contrary to natural defense. 

There, things that do not appear to be crimes are severely punished: 
for example, a man who risks silver at gaming is punished by death. 

It is true that the astonishing character of these opinionated, 
capricious, determined, eccentric people, who brave every peril and 
every misfortune, seems at first sight to absolve their legislators for 
their atrocious laws. But, are people who naturally despise death and 
who disembowel themselves at the slightest fancy corrected or checked 
by the continual prospect of punishments? Or, do they not become 
accustomed to them? 

On the subject of the education of the Japanese, accounts tell us that 
children must be treated gently because they resist penalties and that 
slaves should not be treated too roughly because they immediately take 

34 See [Engelbert] Kaempfer [The History of Japan together with a Description of the Kingdom of 
Siam, i 6 qo-i 6 q 2 , appendix 6; 3, 325-326; 1906 edn]. 

33 Recuetl des voyages qui ont servi a I'etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 3, part 2, 
p. 428 [“Voiage de Hagenaaraux Indes Orientales”; 5, 343; 1706 edn; 5, 428; 1725 edn]. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

a defensive posture. From the spirit that should reign in domestic 
government, could one not judge what should be carried into political 
and civil government? 

A wise legislator would have sought to lead men’s spirits back by a 
just tempering of penalties and rewards; by maxims of philosophy, 
morality, and religion, matched to this character; by the just application 
of the rules of honor; by using shame as a punishment, and by the 
enjoyment of a constant happiness and a sweet tranquillity. And, if this 
legislator had feared that men’s spirits, accustomed to being checked 
only by cruel penalties, could no longer be checked by a gentle one, he 
would have acted 36 silently and imperceptibly and would have 
moderated the penalty for the crime in the most pardonable particular 
cases until he could manage to modify it in every case. 

But despotism does not know these springs; it does not lead in these 
ways. It may abuse itself, but that is all it can do. In japan it has made an 
effort and has become more cruel than itself. 

Souls that are everywhere startled and made more atrocious can be 
guided only by a greater atrocity. 

This is the origin and spirit of the Japanese laws. But these laws had 
more fury than force. They have succeeded in destroying Christianity, 
but such unheard-of efforts are a proof of their powerlessness. The 
laws wanted to establish a good police, and their weakness has 
appeared even more clearly. 

One must read the account of the meeting between the emperor and 
the deyro of Meaco. 37 ' The number of people smothered or killed by 
rogues then was unbelievable: girls and boys were carried off; they were 
discovered in the following days exposed in public places, at all hours, 
entirely naked, sewed up in canvas bags so that they would not know 
where they had been; men stole what they wanted; horses’ stomachs 
were split open to make their riders fall; coaches were overturned in 
order to plunder the ladies inside. The Dutch, who were told that they 
could not spend the night outdoors on the benches without being 
murdered, departed, and so forth. 

I shall briefly mention another point. The emperor, given to 

36 0bserve this as a practical maxim in cases where spirits have been spoiled by overly 
rigorous penalties. 

37 Recueil des voyages qut ont servi d I’etablissement de la Compagnie des hides, vol. 5, part 2 
[“VisiteduDairoal’EmpereurduJapon”;5, 438-440; 1706 edn; 5, 508-51 1; 1725 edn]. 

'Meaco is today’s Kyoto. 


Part i 

infamous pleasures, had not married; he ran the risk of dying without 
an heir. The deyro sent him two beautiful girls; he married one of them 
out of respect but had no commerce with her. His nurse sent for the 
most beautiful woman in the empire. Nothing availed. The daughter of 
an armourer caught his fancy ; 38 his decision was made; he had a son by 
her. The ladies of the court, outraged that he had preferred a person of 
such low birth to them, smothered the child. This crime was hidden 
from the emperor; he would have caused much bloodshed. Therefore, 
atrocity in the laws prevents their execution. When the penalty is 
excessive, one is often obliged to prefer impunity. 

38 Ibid. [Recueil des voyages qui ont servi d I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 5, 
“Voiage de Hagenaar aux Indes Orientales”; 5, 313; 1706 edn; 5, 392-393; 1725 edn.] 


On the spirit of the Roman senate 

During the consulate of Acilius Glabrio and Piso, the Acilian law 39 was 
made in order to check intrigues. Dio 40 says that the senate engaged the 
consuls to propose it, because the tribune C. Cornelius had resolved to 
establish terrible penalties for this crime, which the people were 
strongly inclined to commit. The senate thought that immoderate 
penalties would certainly terrify men’s spirits but that, as a result, no 
one could be found to accuse or condemn; whereas, with moderate 
penalties, there would be both judges and accusers. 

39 The guilty ones were condemned to a fine; they could no longer be admitted to the order of 
the senators or named to any magistracy. Cass. Dio, bk. 36 [. Historia Romana 36.38.1]. 

40 Ibid. [Cass. Dio, Historia Romana 36.38.4-5.] 


On the laws of the Romans in respect to penalties 

I am strengthened in my maxims when I find the Romans on my side; 
and I believe that penalties depend on the nature of the government, 
when I see that, in step with the changes in their political laws, this great 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

people made corresponding changes in the penalties of the civil 

The royal laws, made for a people composed of fugitives, slaves, and 
brigands, were very severe. The spirit of the republic would have 
required the decemvirs not to put these laws in the Twelve Tables, but 
those who aspired to tyranny cared nothing about following the spirit of 
the republic. 

Concerning the punishment of Mettius Fufetius, the dictator of 
Alba, whom Tullus Hostilius condemned to be pulled apart by two 
chariots, Livy says 41 that this was the first and final punishment that 
bore witness to one’s failure to remember humanity. He is mistaken: 
the law of the Twelve Tables is full of very cruel provisions . 42 

The provision that best reveals the design of the decemvirs is the 
pronouncement of the death penalty against authors of libels and 
against poets. That is scarcely in accord with the genius of the republic, 
where the people like to see important men humbled. But those who 
wanted to overthrow liberty feared writings that could call back the 
spirit of liberty . 43 

After the expulsion of the decemvirs, almost all of the laws with fixed 
penalties were removed. They were not expressly abrogated; but, as the 
Porcian law prohibited putting Roman citizens to death, they were no 
longer applicable. 

To that time one can ascribe what Livy 44 says of the Romans, that 
never had a people more loved moderation in penalties. 

If one adds, to the gentleness of penal laws, the right of the accused 
to depart before the judgment, one will see that the Romans followed 
that spirit which I have said is natural to a republic. 

Sulla, who confused tyranny, anarchy, and liberty, made the Cor- 
nelian laws. His regulations seem to have been made only in order to 
establish crimes. Thus, defining an infinite number of actions as 
murder, he found murderers everywhere; and by a practice that was 
followed only too often, he laid snares, scattered thorns, and opened 
abysses in the path of all citizens. 

Almost all of Sulla’s laws stipulated only the interdiction of water and 

41 [Livy] bk. i [1.28.10]. 

42 In it one finds the punishment by fire, penalties that are almost always capital, the theft 
punished by death, etc. 

43 Sulla, moved by the same spirit as the decemvirs, increased, as they did, the penalties 
against satirical writers. 

44 [Livy] bk. 1 [1.28.11]. 


Part i 

fire/ Caesar added the confiscation of goods 45 because the rich, who 
kept their patrimony even in exile, were bolder in committing crimes. 

After the emperors had established a military government, they soon 
felt that it was no less terrible for them than for their subjects; they 
sought to temper it; they believed they needed dignities and the respect 
accompanying them. 

They drew somewhat nearer to monarchy and divided penalties into 
three classes : 46 those regarding the principal persons of the state , 47 
which were gentle enough; those inflicted on persons of an inferior 
rank , 48 which were more severe; and finally, those penalties concerning 
only those of low condition , 49 which were the most strict. 

The ferocious and senseless Maximinus excited, so to speak, the 
military government, which should have been gentle. The senate 
learned, says Capitolinus , 50 that some men had been hung on crosses, 
others thrown to beasts or wrapped in the skins of freshly killed beasts 
without regard to dignities. He seemed to want to exert military 
discipline, the model on which he intended to regulate civil business. 

One can find in the Considerations on the Grandeur of the Romans and 
Their Decadence how Constantine changed the military despotism into a 
military and civil despotism and drew nearer to monarchy/ In that book 
one can follow the various revolutions of this state and see how it went 
from strictness to indolence, and from indolence to impunity. 

45 “He increased the penalties for crimes, since those with wealth were more apt to commit 
them, because, if they were found guilty, they would be exiled but their property would 
remain untouched” [L.]. Suetonius, Vitae duodecim Caesarum, Julius Caesar [42]. 

46 See Law 3 [Corpus Juris Civilis , Digest]; ad legem Comeliam de sicariis et veneficiis ; 
and a great number of others in the Digest and the Code [Code 9.16 ad legem Comeliam de 

47 Sublimiores: “more distinguished.” 

^Medios: “middling.” 

49 Infimos: “lowest, meanest.” Law 3 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest]; ad legem Comeliam 
de sicariis et veneficiis. 

50 Julius Capitolinus, Maxtmint duo [8]. 

'The “interdiction of fire and water” was a decree prohibiting the return of an exiled 

*See chapter 17 of M.’s Considerations (1965 edn, pp. 157-158). 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 


On the just proportion between the penalties and the crime 

It is essential for penalties to be harmonious among themselves, 
because it is essential that the greater crime be avoided rather than the 
lesser one, the one that attacks society rather than the one that runs less 
counter to it. 

“An impostor , 51 who called himself Constantine Ducas, sparked a 
great uprising in Constantinople. He was caught and condemned to be 
flogged, but, as he had accused eminent persons, he was condemned to 
be burned as a slanderer.” It is singular that one should have 
apportioned penalties in this way between the crime of high treason and 
that of calumny. 

This recalls a remark of Charles II, King of England. He passed a 
man in the pillory; he asked why he was there. Sire, he was told, he has 
written libels against your ministers. The great fool, said the king, why didn V 
he write them against me? Nothing would have happened to him. 

“Seventy persons conspired against the emperor Basil ; 52 he had 
them thrashed; their hair and beards were burned. When a stag caught 
the emperor’s belt with his antlers, one of his attendants drew his 
sword, cut the belt, and freed him; the emperor had him beheaded, 
because, the emperor said, ‘he had drawn his sword against him.’ ” 
Who could believe that these two judgments were rendered under the 
same prince? 

Among ourselves, it is a great ill that the same penalty is inflicted on 
the highway robber and on the one who robs and murders. For the 
public safety, it is evident that there must be some difference in the 

In China robbers who are cruel are cut to bits , 53 the others are not; 
because of this difference, one robs there but does not murder. 

History of Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople. [Not Nicephorus but Leo the 
Grammarian, Chronographia, “Constantinus,” CSHB 47.321-322; M. is quoting from 
Louis Cousins, Histoire de Constantinople 3 . 484; 1685 edn.] 

52 History of Nicephorus. [Not Nicephorus but Leo the Grammarian, Chronographia, 
“Basil,” CSHB 47. 261-262; M. is quoting here from Louis Cousins, Histoire de 
Constantinople, 3. 438; 1685 edn.] 

53 Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de {’Empire de la Chine], vol. 1, p. 6 [“Idee 
generate de l’Empire de la Chine”; 1, 5 P; 1, 6 H; 1, 6 L], 


Part i 

In Muscovy, where the penalty for robbery is the same as for murder, 
one always murders . 54 Dead men, they say, tell no tales. 

When there is no difference in the penalty, there must be some 
difference in the expectation of pardon. In England robbers do not 
murder because, unlike murderers, they can expect to be transported 
to the colonies. 

Letters of pardon are a great spring of moderate governments. The 
power of the prince to pardon, executed wisely, can have admirable 
results. The principle of despotic government, a government which 
does not pardon and which is never pardoned, deprives it of these 

54 [John] Ferry, The State of Russia Under the Present Czar[ p. 229; 1967 edn). 

*In this sentence the prince and the principle of despotic government are 


On torture or the question for criminals 

Because men are wicked, the law is obliged to assume them to be better 
than they are. Thus the deposition of two witnesses is enough in the 
punishment of all crimes. The law believes them as if they spoke with 
the mouth of truth. Also, every child conceived during marriage is 
judged legitimate; the law trusts the mother as if she were modesty 
itself. Though the law is forced to make the preceding assumptions, it is 
not forced to use the question in criminal cases. Today we see a well- 
policed nation 55 reject it without meeting drawbacks. The use of the 
question is, therefore, not necessary by its nature . 56 

So many clever people and so many men of genius have written 

55 The English nation. 

56 The citizens of Athens could not be put to the question (Lysias, Orationes, Against Agoratus 
[13.25—28]), except in the crime of high treason. The question was used thirty days after the 
condemnation: C. Chirius Fortunatianvs,Artis rhetoricae , bk. 2 [1.15; 2.26, 30]. There was 
no preparatory question. As for the Romans, Laws 3 and 4 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 
48.4.3-4 ad legem Juliam maiestatis] show that birth, dignity, and the profession of the 
militia guaranteed protection from the question, if it were not a case of the crime of high 
treason. See the wise restrictions made by the Lex Wisigothorum [2.3.4] on this practice. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

against this practice that I dare not speak after them. I was going to say 
that it might be suitable for despotic government, where everything 
inspiring fear enters more into the springs of the government; I was 
going to say that slaves among the Greeks and Romans . . . But I hear 
the voice of nature crying out against me. 


On pecuniary penalties and corporal penalties 

Our fathers the Germans admitted almost none but pecuniary 
penalties. These men, who were both warriors and free, considered 
that their blood should be spilled only when they were armed. The 
Japanese , 57 by contrast, reject these sorts of penalties on the pretext 
that rich people would escape punishment. But do not rich people fear 
the loss of their goods? Cannot pecuniary penalties be proportionate to 
fortunes? And, finally, cannot infamy be joined with these penalties? 

A good legislator takes a middle way;' he does not always order 
pecuniary penalties; he does not always inflict corporal penalties. 

57 See [Engelbert] Kaempfer [ The History of Japan together with a Description of the Kingdom of 
Siam, 1690-1692, appendix 6, 3, 325-326; 1906 ednj. 

'juste milieu. 


On the law of retaliation 

Despotic states, which prefer simple laws, make much use of the law of 
retaliation ; 58 moderate states sometimes accept it. But the difference is 
that the former have it exercised strictly, while the others almost always 
temper it. 

The law of the Twelve Tables admitted both; it sentenced in terms 
of retaliation only when the pleader could not be appeased . 59 After 

58 It is established in the Koran. See the chapter “On the Cow” [2.178]. 

59 “If a limb has been broken, unless an agreement be made, there will be retaliation” [L.[. 
Aulus Gellius [AW], bk. 20, chap. 1 [20.1. 14]. 


Part i 

sentencing, one could pay damage and interest , 60 and the corporal 
penalty would be converted into a pecuniary penalty . 61 

^Ibid. { NA 20.1. 14]. 

61 See also the Lex Wisigothorum, bk. 6, tit. 4, paras. 3 and 5 [6.4.3, 5l- 


On fathers being punished for their children 

Fathers are punished in China for the offenses of their children. This 
was the usage in Peru . 62 It is another punishment derived from despotic 

It is all very well to say that in China the father is punished for not 
having used that paternal power established by nature and augmented 
by the laws themselves; this always assumes that there is no honor 
among the Chinese. Among ourselves, fathers whose children are 
condemned to punishment and children 63 whose fathers have met the 
same fate are punished as much by shame as they would be in China by 
the loss of life. 

62 See Garcilaso [de la Vega, El Inca], Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of 
Peru [pY. -i, bk. 2, chap. 12; r, 95; 1966 edn|. 

63 Instead of being punished, said Plato, they must be praised for not resembling their father. 
[Plato] Lam , bk. 9 [855a]. 


On the clemency of the prince 

Clemency is the distinctive quality of monarchs. In a republic, which has 
virtue as its principle, it is less necessary. In a despotic state, where fear 
reigns, it is used less, because the important men of the state must be 
restrained by examples of severity. In monarchies, where one is 
governed by honor, which often requires what the law prohibits, it is 
more necessary . Disgrace there is equivalent to a penalty; even the 
formalities of judgments are punishments. There, shame comes from 
all sides and forms penalties particular to monarchies. 


Civil and criminal laws, judgments, and penalties 

The important men there are so heavily punished by disgrace, by the 
often -imaginary loss of their fortune, their credit, their habits, and their 
pleasures, that strictness in respect to them is useless; it can serve only 
to take from the subjects the love they bear the person of their prince 
and the respect they should have for positions. 

Just as the instability of important men is in the nature of despotic 
government, their security enters into the nature of monarchy. 

Monarchs have so much to gain from clemency, it is followed by such 
love, and they draw such glory from it, that it is almost always a 
fortunate thing for them to have occasion to exercise it; and one can 
almost always do so in our countries. 

There will perhaps be disputes over some branch of their authority 
but almost never over their whole authority; and, if they sometimes 
fight for the crown, they never fight for their lives. 

But, one will ask, when is one to punish? When to pardon? This is 
something better felt than prescribed. Though clemency has dangers, 
they are visible. Clemency is easily distinguished from the weakness 
that leads the prince to scorn punishing and even to lack the power to 
do so. 

The emperor Maurice 64 resolved never to shed the blood of his 
subjects. Anastasius 65 did not punish crimes. Isaac the AngeP swore 
that, during his reign, he would put no one to death. The Greek 
emperors had forgotten that they did not carry the sword in vain. 

64 Evagrius Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica [6,io;p. 228; 1979 edn). 

55 Suidas, in Constantine Porphyrogenitus [Extracts of Virtues and Vices]. [M.’s interpretation 
follows a Latin translation, not the Greek original. Suidas, Lexicon, “Anastasios,” i. 187; 
Teubner edn, 1938.] 

"'Isaac II Angelus. 



Consequences of the different principles 
of the three governments in relation to 
sumptuary laws, luxury, and the 
condition of women 


On luxury 

Luxury is always proportionate to the inequality of fortunes. If wealth is 
equally divided in a state, there will be no luxury, for luxury is founded 
only on the comforts that one can give oneself from the work of others. 

For wealth to remain equally divided, the law must give each man 
only the physical necessities. If men have more than that, some will 
spend, others, will acquire, and inequality will be established. 

Assuming physical necessities equal to a given sum, the luxury of 
those who have only the necessary will be equal to zero : he who has its 
double will have a luxury equal to one; he who has double the goods of 
the latter will have a luxury equal to three; when the next has yet again 
the double, he will have a luxury equal to seven; so that, always 
assuming the goods of the next individual to be twice those of the 
previous one, luxury will increase by twice plus one, in this progression: 
o, i, 3> 7> 6 3> I2 7- 

In the republic of Plato, 1 " it was possible to calculate luxury 
accurately. Four levels of census were established. The first was set 
precisely at the point where poverty ended; the second at double the 
first, the third triple, and the fourth, quadruple. In the first census, 
luxury was equal to zero’, it was equal to one in the second, to two in the 

1 The first census was the hereditary based on amounts of land, and Plato wanted no one to 
have more than triple the hereditary lot in other effects. See his Laws , bk. 5 [744d-eJ. 

“In the Pensees, 1378 (1452), Montesquieu speaks of “Plato’s two Republics." 


Sumptuary laws , luxury , and the condition of women 

third, to three in the fourth; and it followed arithmetic proportion 

The luxury of the various peoples in regard to each other exists in 
each state as a compound ratio of the inequality of fortunes among the 
citizens and the inequality of wealth of the various states. In Poland, for 
example, there is an extreme inequality in fortunes, but the poverty of 
the whole prevents it from having as much luxury as would a richer 

Luxury is also proportionate to the size of the towns and above all of 
the capital, so that luxury exists in a compound ratio of the wealth of the 
state, the inequality of the fortunes of individuals, and the number of 
men gathered together in certain places. 

The more men there are together, the more vain they are, and the 
more they feel arise within them the desire to call attention to 
themselves by small things . 2 If their number is so great that most are 
unknown to one another, the desire to distinguish oneself redoubles 
because there is more expectation of succeeding. Luxury produces this 
expectation; each man takes the marks of the condition above his own. 
But, by dint of wanting to distinguish themselves, all became equal, and 
one is no longer distinct; as everyone wants to be looked at, no one is 

The result of all this is a general distress. Those who excel in a 
profession put their own price on their art; the least talented follow this 
example; there is no longer harmony between needs and means. When 
I am forced to plead, I need to be able to pay a lawyer; when I am sick, I 
must be able to have a doctor. 

Some people have thought that gathering of so many people in a 
capital has diminished commerce because men are no longer a certain 
distance apart. I do not believe it; men have more desires, more needs, 
and more fancies when they are together. 

2 In a great town, says [Bernard MandevilleJ the author of The Fable of the Bees, vol. i, p. 133 
l 1 73 2 e dn> Remark m; i, 129-130; 1924 edn], one dresses above one’s quality to be 
esteemed by the multitude as being more than one is. For a weak spirit this pleasure is 
nearly as great as that from the fulfillment of his desires. 


Part i 


On sumptuary lam in democracy 

I have just said that in republics where wealth is equally divided, there 
can be no luxury; and, as one has seen in Book 5 3 that this equality of 
distribution made the excellence of a republic, it follows that the less 
luxury there is in a republic, the more perfect it is. There was none 
among the first Romans; there was none among the Lacedaemonians; 
and in republics where equality is not altogether lost, the spirit of 
commerce, of work, and of virtue makes each one there able and willing 
to live from his own goods; consequently, there is little luxury. 

Laws dividing the fields anew, demanded with such insistence in 
certain republics, were salutary by their nature. They are dangerous 
only as a sudden action. By abruptly removing wealth from some and 
increasing the wealth of others, they make a revolution in each family 
and must produce one generally throughout the state. 

So far as luxury is established in a republic, so far does the spirit turn 
to the interest of the individual. For people who have to have nothing 
but the necessities, there is left to desire only the glory of the homeland 
and one’s own glory. But a soul corrupted by luxury has many other 
desires; becomes an enemy of the laws that hamper it. When 
those in the garrison at Rhegium became familiar with luxury, they 
slaughtered the town’s inhabitants. 

As soon as the Romans were corrupted, their desires became 
immense. This can be judged by the price they put on things. A jug of 
Falemian wine 4 sold for one hundred Roman deniers; a barrel of salt 
meat from the Black Sea cost four hundred deniers; a good cook, four 
talents; young boys were priceless. When everyone, by a common 
impulse , 5 was carried to voluptuousness, what became of virtue? 

3 Chaps. 3 and 4. 

4 Fragment of Diodorus Siculus [Bibliotheca historical, bk. 365 [37.3.5], reported by 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Extracts of Virtues and Vices. 

5 “As everyone strove for the greatest luxury” [L.]. Ibid. [Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca 
historica, 37.3.2.] 


Sumptuary lam , luxury, and the condition of women 


On sumptuary laws in aristocracy 

The misfortune of the badly constituted aristocracy is that its nobles 
have wealth but should not spend it; luxury, which is contrary to the 
spirit of moderation, should be banished from it. Therefore, there are 
only the veiy poor who cannot get anything and the very rich who 
cannot spend anything. 

In Venice the laws force the nobles to be modest in their tastes. They 
are so accustomed to thrift that only courtesans can make them give up 
money. This course is taken to maintain industry: the most despised 
women spend without danger, while those who pay them tribute lead 
the most obscure lives in the world. 

The good Greek republics had admirable institutions in this regard. 
The rich used their silver for festivals, musical choruses, chariots, race 
horses, and onerous magistracies. Wealth there was as burdensome as 

chapter 4 

On sumptuary laws in monarchies 

“The Suiones, a German nation, honor wealth,” says Tacitus , 6 “which 
makes them live under the government of one alone.” This means that 
luxury is singularly appropriate in monarchies and that they do not have 
to have sumptuary laws. 

As wealth is unequally divided in accord with the constitution of 
monarchies, there must be luxury. If wealthy men do not spend much, 
the poor will die of hunger. There the rich must indeed spend in 
proportion to the inequality of fortunes, and, as we have said, luxury 
must increase in this proportion. Individual wealth has increased only 
because it has removed physical necessities from a part of the citizens; 
these must, therefore, be returned to them. 

Thus, for the monarchical state to sustain itself, luxury has to 
increase from the laborer to the artisan, to the merchant, to the nobles, 

6 [Tacitus] Germania [44]. 


Part i 

to the magistrates, to the great lords, to the principal revenue officers, 
to the princes; otherwise, all would be lost. 

In the Roman senate, composed of serious magistrates, jurists, and 
men filled with the idea of the earliest times, one proposed, under 
Augustus, the correction of the mores and luxury of women. It is 
interesting to see in Dio 7 the art with which Augustus evaded the 
importunate demands of these senators. This is because he was 
founding a monarchy and dissolving a republic. 

Under Tiberius, the aediles in the senate proposed the reestablish- 
ment of the old sumptuary laws . 8 This enlightened prince opposed it, 
saying, “The state could not continue to exist, given the present 
situation. How could Rome live? How could the provinces live? We 
were frugal when we were citizens of a single town; today we consume 
the wealth of the whole universe; masters and slaves are made to work 
for us.” He saw clearly that they could no longer have sumptuary laws. 

When, under the same emperor, it was proposed to the senate that 
governors be prohibited from taking their wives with them to the 
provinces because of the dissoluteness that accompanied them, the 
proposal was rejected. It was said that the examples of the harshness of the 
ancients had been changed into a more pleasant way of living . 9 One felt that 
there had to be different mores. 

Luxury is* therefore, necessary in monarchical states; it is also 
necessary in despotic states. In the former, it is a use of the liberty one 
possesses; in the latter, it is an abuse of the advantages of one’s 
servitude, when a slave, chosen by his master to tyrannize over the 
other slaves, uncertain of enjoying each day’s fortune on the following 
day, has no other felicity than that of sating the arrogance, desires, and 
voluptuousness of each day. 

All this leads to a reflection: republics end in luxury; monarchies, in 
poverty . 10 

7 Cass. Dio [Historia Romatia], bk. 54 [54.16.3-6]. 

s Tzcitus, Annates, bk. 3 [3.53]. 

9 “Much of the harshness of the ancients has been changed into a better and more pleasant 
manner” [L.]. Tacitus, Annates, bk. 3 [3.34]. 

,0 “Opulence soon gives rise to poverty” [L.]. Florus [ Epitome rerum Romanorum ], bk. 3 
[1.47.12; 3.12.12], 


Sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women 


In which cases sumptuary laws are useful in a monarchy 

In the middle of the thirteenth century in Aragon sumptuary laws were 
made in the spirit of the republic, if not for some particular cases. James 
I ordered that neither the king nor any of his subjects could eat more 
than two sorts of meat at any meal and that each meat would be 
prepared in only one way, unless it was game that one had killed 
oneself . 11 

In our time, sumptuary laws have been made in Sweden, but they 
have a different purpose from those of Aragon. 

A state can make sumptuary laws with the purpose of an absolute 
frugality; this is the spirit of sumptuary laws in republics, and the nature 
of the thing shows that this was the purpose of the laws in Aragon. 

Sumptuary laws can also have relative frugality for their purpose, 
when a state, feeling that foreign commodities are too highly priced and 
that so many exports of its own commodities are required that it would 
deprive itself of more of what it needs than these foreign commodities 
can satisfy, absolutely prohibits their entrance; and this is the spirit of 
the laws made in our time in Sweden . 12 These are the only sumptuary 
laws suitable to monarchies. 

In general, the poorer the state, the more it is ruined by relative 
luxury, and the more, consequently, it must have relative sumptuary 
laws. The richer the state, the more its relative luxury enriches it, and 
one must be careful not to make relative sumptuary laws there. We shall 
explain this better in the book on commerce . 13 Here only absolute 
luxury is in question. 

1 1 Constitution of James I in [Pierre de Marca] Marca Hispanica, anno 1234, art. 6, p. 1 429 
[Appendix, chap. 513, art. 6, pp. 1429-1430; 1688 edn]. 

lz Exquisite wines and other precious merchandise were forbidden there. 

13 See bk. 20, chap. 20 [below]. 


Part i 


On luxury in China 

Particular reasons can require sumptuary laws in some states. The 
people can become so numerous through the force of the climate, and 
on the other hand, their means of subsistence can be so uncertain that it 
is well for all the people to cultivate the land. In these states luxury is 
dangerous and sumptuary laws should be strict. Thus, in order to know 
if luxury must be encouraged or proscribed, one should first observe 
the relation between the number of people and the ease of giving them 
enough to eat. In England the soil produces much more grain than is 
needed to feed both those who cultivate the land and those who provide 
clothing; there they can have frivolous arts and, consequently, luxury. 
In France enough wheat grows to feed both those who work the land 
and those employed in manufacture; in addition, commerce with 
foreigners can bring in return for frivolous things so many necessary 
things that luxury should scarcely be feared there. 

In China, on the other hand, women are so fertile and humankind 
multiplies so fast that the fields, even heavily cultivated, scarcely suffice 
to produce enough food for the inhabitants. Consequently, luxury is 
pernicious there ^nd the spirit of work and economy is as requisite as in 
any republic whatever . 14 One must apply oneself to the necessary arts 
and avoid those of voluptuousness. 

This is the spirit of the fine ordinances of the Chinese emperors. 
“Our ancestors,” says an emperor of the T’ang family , 15 “took it as a 
maxim that if there were a man who did not plow the fields, a woman 
who did not spin, someone in the empire would suffer from cold or 
hunger ...” And on this principle he had an infinite number of the 
bonze monasteries destroyed/ 

The third emperor of the twenty-first dynasty , 16 when given precious 

14 Luxury has always been checked there. 

15 In an ordinance reported by Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de I’Empirede la 
Chine), vol. 2, p. 497 [“La cinquieme des annees nominees Ho i Tchang”; 2, 596-597 H; 
2, 496-497 P], 

16 Description de I'Empire de la Chine, twenty-first dynasty, in the work of Father [Jean 
Baptistejdu Halde, vol. 1 [“21st Dynasty, TchingTsou, 3rd Emperor”; 1,447 H; 1,509 

P; 1,455 L]. 

4 The “bonze” were Buddhist monks. 


Sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women 

stones found in a mine, had it closed, not wanting to tire his people with 
working for what could neither feed nor clothe them. 

“Our luxury is so great,” said Kia-y , 17 “that the people embroider 
the shoes of the boys and girls whom they are obliged to sell.” Is it by 
occupying so many men with making garments for one that many 
people are kept from lacking clothes? For each plowman there are ten 
men who eat the yield of the lands: is this the way to keep many people 
from lacking food? 

l7 In a speech reported by Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de I’Empire de la 
Chine), vol. 2, p. 418 [“Discours ou memoire de Kia-y”; 2, 499-500 H; 2, 418 P]. 


A fatal consequence of luxury in China 

One sees in the history of China that it has had twenty-two dynasties in 
succession; that is, it has suffered twenty-two general revolutions, not 
counting an infinite number of particular ones. The first three 
dynasties lasted a long time, because they were wisely governed and 
because the empire was less extensive than it was to become. But in 
general, one can say that all these dynasties began well enough. Virtue, 
care, and vigilance are necessary for China; they were present at the 
beginning of the dynasties and missing at the end. Indeed, it was 
natural for emperors raised on the hardship of war and successful in 
forcing a family inundated by delights from the throne, to preserve the 
virtue they had found so useful and to fear the voluptuousness they had 
seen to be so fatal. But, after these first three or four princes, 
corruption, luxury, laziness, and delights master their successors; they 
shut themselves in the palace, their spirits grow weak, their lives are 
short, the family declines; the important men rise up, the eunuchs gain 
credit, children only are put on the throne; the palace becomes the 
enemy of the empire; the lazy people living there ruin those who work; 
the emperor is killed or destroyed by a usurper, who founds a family, 
whose successor in the third or fourth generation goes into the same 
palace and shuts himself in again. 


Part i 


On public continence 

So many imperfections are attached to the loss ofvirtue in women, their 
whole soul is so markedly degraded by this, and when this principal 
point is removed so many others fall, that in a popular state one can 
regard public incontinence as the last misfortune and as assurance of a 
change in the constitution. 

Thus good legislators have required a certain gravity in the mores of 
women. They have proscribed from their republics not only vice but 
even the appearance of vice. They have banished even that commerce 
of gallantly that produces laziness, that causes women to corrupt even 
before being corrupted, that puts a high price on every trifle and 
reduces the price on what is important, and that makes one no longer 
conduct oneself by any but the maxims of ridicule that women 
understand so well how to establish. 


On the condition of women in the various governments 

In monarchies women have so little restraint because, called to court by 
the distinction of ranks, they there take up the spirit of liberty that is 
almost the only one tolerated. Each man uses their charms and their 
passions to advance his fortune; and as their weakness allows them not 
arrogance but vanity, luxury always reigns there with them. 

In despotic states women do not introduce luxury, but they are 
themselves an object of luxury. They should be kept in extreme slavery. 
Each man follows the spirit of the government and brings to his home 
what he sees established outside of it. As the laws in these states are 
severe and executed on the spot, one fears that women’s liberty could 
be a cause for bringing suit. Women’s quarrels, their indiscretions, 
their aversions, their inclinations, their jealousies, their spiteful 
remarks, in short that art by which narrow souls affect generous ones, 
cannot be without consequence there. 

In addition, as the princes in these states trifle with human nature, 


Sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women 

they have several wives, and a thousand considerations oblige them to 
enclose their women. 

In republics women are free by the laws and captured by the mores; 
luxury is banished there and with it, corruption and vices. 

In the Greek towns where one did not live under the religion which 
established that even among men the purity of mores is a part of virtue; 
in the Greek towns where a blind vice reigned unbridled, where love 
took only a form one dare not mention while only friendship was to be 
found within marriages , 18 women’s virtue, simplicity, and chastity were 
such that one has scarcely ever seen a people who had a better police in 
this regard .' 9 

18 “As for true love,” says Plutarch in the Moralia, A matorius, p. 600 [750c], “women have no 
part in it.” He spoke as did his age. See Xenophon, in the dialog entitled Hiero [1.3 1-36]. 

19 In Athens there was a particular magistrate who watched over the conduct of women. 


On the domestic tribunal among the Romans 

Unlike the Greeks, the Romans had no special magistrates to inspect 
women’s conduct. The censors paid no more attention to women than 
to the rest of the republic. The institution of a domestic tribunal 20 
replaced the magistracy established among the Greeks . 21 

The husband assembled the wife’s relatives and judged her before 
them . 22 This tribunal maintained mores in the republic. But these same 
mores maintained this tribunal. Its task was to judge not only the 
violation of laws but also the violation of mores. Now, in order to judge 
the violation of mores, one must have mores. 

The penalties of this tribunal had to be arbitrary as, indeed, they 

20 Romulus instituted this tribunal, as appears in Dion. Hal. \Ant. Rom.], bk. 2, p. 96 

21 See Livy, bk. 39 [39.18.6], for the usage made of this tribunal at the time of the conspiracy 
of the Bacchantes; the assemblies which corrupted the mores of women and youth were 
deemed conspiracies against the republic. 

22 It appears from Dion. \Ant. Rom.], bk. 2 [2.25.6], that by the institution of Romulus, the 
husband, in ordinary cases, judged alone in the presence of the wife’s relatives and that in 
great crimes, he judged along with five of them. Thus Ulpian [Fragmenta], tit. 6, para. 9, 
12-13 [6.9.12—13] distinguishes in judgments on mores between those he calls serious 
and those that are less so: mores graviores, mores leviores. 


Part i 

were, for all that concerns mores and all that concerns the rules of 
modesty can scarcely be included in a code of laws. It is easy to regulate 
by laws what one owes others; it is difficult to include in them all that 
one owes oneself. 

The domestic tribunal was concerned with the general conduct of 
women. But there was one crime which, besides being reproved by this 
tribunal, was also submitted to public accusation: this crime was 
adultery, either because such a serious violation of mores in a republic 
is of interest to the government, or because the profligacy of the wife 
might imply that of the husband, or finally, because one feared that 
even honest people might prefer hiding the crime to punishing it, might 
prefer ignorance to vengeance. 


How institutions changed in Rome with the government 

Just as the domestic tribunal presupposed mores, public accusation 
also presupposed them; and this made both of them collapse along with 
the mores and come to an end with the republic . 23 

Th« establishment of perpetual questions, that is, the division of 
jurisdiction among the praetors, and the custom that was gradually 
introduced that the praetors themselves judged all suits , 24 weakened 
the use of the domestic tribunal; the evidence for this change is the 
surprise registered by the historians, who regard the judgments 
Tiberius rendered through this tribunal as singular facts and as the 
renewal of the old practice. 

The establishment of the monarchy and the change in mores also 
brought public accusation to an end. One could fear that a dishonest 
man, stung by a woman’s sneers, indignant at her refusals, outraged 
even by her virtue, might form the design of ruining her. The Julian law 
ordered that or*: could accuse a woman of adultery only after accusing 
her husband of encouraging her profligacies, a stipulation which 

23 “Judgments in accord with custom (which previously had had a place in the ancient laws, 
although not frequently used), are now entirely abolished” [L.; M.’s parentheses]. Law 
1 1, para. 2, Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 5.1 7.1 1.2 jab]]; de repudiis et judicio de moribus 

24, Judicia extraordinaria: a judicial procedure that is not the ordinary one. 


Sumptuary laws , luxury, and the condition of women 

greatly restrained this accusation and reduced it, so to speak, to 
nothing . 25 

Sixtus V seemed to want to renew public accusation . 26 But one has to 
reflect only a little to see that this law, in a monarchy such as his, was 
even more out of place than in any other. 

25 Constantine removed it entirely: “It is an unworthy thing,’’ he said, “that tranquil 
marriages should be disturbed by the audacity of strangers.” [Corpus Jims Civilis, Code 
9.9.29 (30); ad legem Juliam de adulteriis et de stupro.] 

26 Sixtus V ordered that a husband who would not complain of the debauches of his wife be 
punished with death. See [Gregorio] Leti [The Life of Pope Sixtus V, bk. 6; p. 273; 1779 
Eng. edn]. 


On the tutelage of women among the Romans 

The Roman institutions put women under perpetual guardianship 
unless they were under the authority of a husband . 27 This guardianship 
was given to the closest male relative and it appears, according to a 
popular phrase , 28 that the women were very hemmed in by it. This was 
good for the republic, and was not necessary in the monarchy . 29 

It seems, according to the various law codes of the barbarians, that 
among the early Germans, women were also under perpetual 
guardianship . 30 This usage passed into the monarchies they founded 
but it did not continue to exist. 

27 “Except by marriage when she comes into the hands of her husband” [L.]. 

28 “Verily, do not be a paternal uncle to me” [L.] [Horace, Satires 2.3.88]. 

29 The Papian law ordained, under Augustus, that wives who had had three children would 
be exempt from this tutelage. 

50 Among the Germans this tutelage was called mundeburdium. 


On penalties established by the emperors against 
women ’s debaucheries 

Thejulian law established a penalty for adultery. But this law and those 
made later on the same subject were far from indicating the goodness 
of the mores; on the contrary, they indicated their debasement. 


Part i 

The whole political system with regard to women changed in the 
monarchy. It was no longer a question of establishing the purity of their 
mores but of punishing their crimes. New laws were made to punish 
these crimes only because the violations, which were not the same as 
the crimes, were no longer punished. 

The dreadful excesses of the mores obliged the emperors to make 
laws to check immodesty at some point; but their intention was not to 
correct mores generally. Positive facts, reported by historians, are more 
a proof of this than all the laws could be proof of the contrary. One can 
see in Dio both the conduct of Augustus in this regard and his evasion 
of the demands that were made of him when he was praetor and 
censor . 31 

In the historians, one finds rigid judgments rendered under 
Augustus and Tiberius against the indecency of certain Roman ladies; 
but by acquainting us with the spirit of these reigns, they acquaint us 
with the spirit of these judgments. 

Augustus and Tiberius thought principally of punishing the 
debauchery of their female relatives. They did not punish dissolute 
mores but a certain crime of impiety or of high treason 32 that they had 
invented, which was useful both for instilling respect and for taking 
revenge. Hence the strong protests of the Roman authors against this 

The penalty in the Julian law was light . 33 The emperors wanted the 
penalty they had put into the law to be increased in the judgments. This 
was an object of the historians’ invective. They did not examine 
whether the women deserved to be punished, but whether the law had 
been violated in order to punish them. 

31 When a young man, who had had evil commerce with his wife before their marriage, was 
brought before Augustus, Augustus hesitated at length, daring neither to approve nor to 
punish these things. Finally, collecting his wits, he said, “Seditions have been the cause of 
great evils; let us forget them.” Cass. Dio [Historia Romana], bk. 54 [54.16.6]. As the 
senators had asked him for rulings on the mores of women, he avoided this request, telling 
them to “correct their wives as he had corrected his own.” At that they begged him to tell 
them how he dealt with his wife, a highly indiscreet question, it seems to me. 

32 “In calling what is a common fault between men and women by the serious names of 
sacrilege and treason, [Augustus] overstepped the clemency of our ancestors and that of 
his own laws” [L.]. Tacitus, Annales, bk. 3 [3.24]. 

33 This law is reported in the Digest , but the penalty was not included. One judges it to have 
been exile by relegation, since that for incest was only exile by deportation [with loss of civil 
rights]. The law si quis viduarn and following [Corpus Juris Civilis , Digest 48.18.5]; de 


Sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women 

One of the principal tyrannies of Tiberius 34 was his abuse of the old 
laws. When he wanted to push some Roman matron beyond the penalty 
set by the Julian law, he reestablished the domestic tribunal for her . 35 

These provisions in respect to women involved only the families of 
senators, not those of the people. One wanted pretexts for accusing the 
important men, and women’s misconduct provided innumerable ones. 

Finally, what I have said, that the goodness of mores is not the 
principle of the government of one alone, was never more verified than 
under these first emperors; and if there were any doubt about it, one 
would have only to read Tacitus, Suetonius, Juvenal, and Martial. 

34 “It was characteristic of Tiberius to conceal newly invented crimes by venerable words” 
[L.]. Tacitus [Annales 4.19). 

35 “For her [Appuleia Varilia, the grandniece of Augustus], he [Tiberius] deprecated the 
more severe penalty, and following ancestral precedent, recommended that she be 
removed by her relatives beyond the 200th milestone. The adulterer Manlius was 
outlawed from both Italy and Africa” [L.]. Tacitus , Annales bk. 2 [2.50]. 


Sumptuary lam among the Romans 

We have spoken of public incontinence because it is joined to luxury; it 
is always followed by luxury, and always follows luxury. If you leave the 
impulses of the heart at liberty, how can you hamper the weaknesses of 
the spirit? 

In Rome, in addition to the general institutions, the censors had the 
magistrates make several particular laws to keep women frugal. The 
Fannian, Licinian, and Oppian laws had this purpose. One must see in 
Livy 36 how agitated the senate became when the women demanded the 
revocation of the Oppian Law. Valerius Maximus dates the epoch of 
luxury among the Romans from the time of the repeal of this law. 

36 [Livy] decade 4, bk. 4 [34.1-8]. 


Part i 


On dowries and the advantages of marriage 
in the various constitutions 

Dowries should be of a considerable size in monarchies so that married 
men can sustain their rank and its established luxury. They should be 
of medium size in republics, where luxury should not reign . 37 They 
should be nearly nothing in despotic states where women are, in a way, 

The community of goods between husband and wife introduced by 
French laws is very suitable to monarchical government because it 
interests women in domestic business and recalls them, as if in spite of 
themselves, to the care of their households. It is less suitable in a 
republic, where wives are more virtuous. It would be absurd in despotic 
states, where wives are themselves almost always a part of the master’s 

Since women are, by their state, sufficiently inclined to marriage, the 
advantages the law gives them over their husbands’ goods are useless. 
But such advantages would be very pernicious in a republic, because 
the individual wealth of wives produces luxury. In despotic states the 
a<%antages of marriage should be the wife’s sustenance and nothing 

37 Marseilles was the wisest of the republics of her time; dowries could not exceed one 
hundred ecus in silver and five in clothing, says Strabo [Geographical, bk. 4 [4.1.5]- 


A fine custom of the Samnites 

The Samnites had a custom, which, in a small republic and especially 
one in the situation theirs had, produced admirable effects. All the 
young people were assembled and judged. The one who was declared 
best took for his wife the girl he wanted; he who had the next largest 
vote then chose; and so on . 38 It was admirable to consider among the 

38 Fragments of Nicholas of Damascus [FGrH, vol. 2 a, 384], from Stobaeus [Morum 
mirabilum collectio, 109], in the collection by Constantine Porphyrogenitus. 


Sumptuary laws, luxury, and the condition of women 

goods of the boys only the fine qualities and the services rendered to the 
homeland. He who was richest in these sorts of goods would choose a 
girl from among the whole nation. Love, beauty, chastity, virtue, birth, 
even wealth, all were, so to speak, the dowry of virtue. It would be 
difficult to imagine a reward that was nobler, greater, less burdensome 
to a small state, or more able to have an effect on both sexes. 

The Samnites were descendants of the Lacedaemonians; and Plato, 
whose institutions are only the perfection of the laws of Lycurgus, gave 
almost the same law . 39 

39 He even permits them to see one another more frequently. [Plato, Republic 459(1-4600; 
Lams 77ie-772a.] 


On administration by women 

It is against reason and against nature for women to be mistresses in the 
house, as was established among the Egyptians, but not for them to 
govern an empire. In the first case, their weak state does not permit 
them to be preeminent; in the second, their very weakness gives them 
more gentleness and moderation, which, rather than the harsh and 
ferocious virtues, can make for a good government. 

In the Indies government by women turns out very well; it is 
established that, if the males do not come from a mother of the same 
blood, a daughter whose mother is of royal blood succeeds to the 
throne . 40 She is given a certain number of people to help her carry the 
weight of the government. According to Mr. Smith , 41 government by 
women also turns out very well in Africa. If one adds to this the 
examples of Muscovy and of England, one will see that they succeed 
equally well in moderate government and in despotic government. 

w Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, 14 [Lettre du P. Bouchet, Pontichery, October 2, 1714; 14, 
382-389; 1720 edn]. 

41 [William Smith] A Nem Voyage to Guinea, pt. 2, p. 165 of the translation [pp. 208-209; 
1967 edn] on the kingdom of Angona on the Gold Coast. 

1 1 1 


On the corruption of the principles of 
the three governments 


The general idea of this book 

The corruption of each government almost always begins with that of 
its principles. 


On the corruption of the principle of democracy 

The" principle of democracy is corrupted not only when the spirit of 
equality is lost but also when the spirit of extreme equality is taken up 
and each one wants to be the equal of those chosen to command. So the 
people, finding intolerable even the power they entrust to the others, 
want to do everything themselves: to deliberate for the senate, to 
execute for the magistrates, and to cast aside all the judges. 

Then there can no longer be virtue in the republic. The people want 
to perform the magistrates’ functions; therefore, the magistrates are no 
longer respected. The senate’s deliberations no longer carry weight; 
therefore, there is no longer consideration for senators or, conse- 
quently, for elders. And if there is no respect for elders, neither will 
there be any for fathers; husbands no longer merit deference nor 
masters, submission. Everyone will come to love this license; the 
restraint of commanding will be as tiresome as that of obeying had 
been. Women, children, and slaves will submit to no one. There will no 
longer be mores or love of order, and finally, there will no longer be 

One sees in Xenophon’s Symposium an artless depiction of a republic 

Corruption of the principles of the governments 

whose people have abused equality. Each guest in turn gives his reason 
for being pleased with himself. “I am pleased with myself,” says 
Charmides, “because of my poverty. When I was rich I was obliged to 
pay court to slanderers, well aware that I was more likely to receive ill 
from them than to cause them any; the republic constantly asked for a 
new payment; I could not travel. Since becoming poor, I have acquired 
authority; no one threatens me, I threaten the others; I can go or stay. 
The rich now rise from their seats and make way for me. Now I am a 
king, I was a slave; I used to pay a tax to the republic, today the republic 
feeds me; I no longer fear loss, I expect to acquire.” 0 

The people fall into this misfortune when those to whom they 
entrust themselves, wanting to hide their own corruption, seek to 
corrupt the people. To keep the people from seeing their own 
ambition, they speak only of the people’s greatness; to keep the people 
from perceiving their avarice, they constantly encourage that of the 

Corruption will increase among those who corrupt, and it will 
increase among those who are already corrupted. The people will 
distribute among themselves all the public funds; and, just as they will 
join the management of business to their laziness, they will want to join 
the amusements of luxury to their poverty. But given their laziness and 
their luxury, only the public treasure can be their object. 

One must not be astonished to see votes given for silver. One cannot 
give the people much without taking even more from them; but, in 
order to take from them, the state must be overthrown. The more the 
people appear to take advantage of their liberty, the nearer they 
approach the moment they are to lose it. Petty tyrants are formed, 
having all the vices of a single one. What remains of liberty soon 
becomes intolerable. A single tyrant rises up, and the people lose 
everything, even the advantages of their corruption. 

Therefore, democracy has to avoid two excesses: the spirit of 
inequality, which leads it to aristocracy or to the government of one 
alone, and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads it to the despotism 
of one alone, as the despotism of one alone ends by conquest. 

It is true that those who corrupted the Greek republics did not always 
become tyrants. They had applied themselves more to eloquence than 
to military arts; besides, there was in the hearts of all Greeks an 

"Xenophon, Symposium 4.30-3 1 . 


Part i 

implacable hatred for those who had overthrown the republican 
government, which made anarchy crumble into dissolution instead of 
turning into tyranny. 

But Syracuse, situated among many little oligarchies that had 
become tyrannies,' Syracuse, whose senate 2 is scarcely ever mentioned 
in history, endured misfortunes not produced by ordinary corruption. 
This town, always licentious 3 or oppressed, equally tormented by its 
liberty and by its servitude, always receiving the one or the other like a 
tempest, and, in spite of its power abroad, always determined to 
revolution by the smallest foreign force, had an immense population 
whose only choice was the cruel one between giving itself to a tyrant 
and being one. 

’See Plutarch in the lives of Timoleon and Dion [ Vit . ] . 

2 It is the Six Hundred of which Diodorus [Siculus] speaks [Bibliotheca historica 19.5.6]. 

3 After driving out the tyrants, they made citizens of foreigners and mercenary soldiers, 
which caused civil wars. Aristotle, Politics , bk. 5, chap. 3 [ 1 303338-130362], As * e P e0 P le 
had been the cause of the victory over the Athenians, the republic was changed. Ibid., 
chap. 4 [t 304327-29]. The passion of two young magistrates, the first taking a boy away 
from the other, the latter debauching the wife of the former, made the form of this republic 
change. Ibid., bk. 7, chap. 4 [1303617-26]. 


On the spirit of extreme equality 

As far as the sky is from the earth, so far is the true spirit of equality 
from the spirit of extreme equality. The former consists neither in 
making everyone command nor in making no one command, but in 
obeying and commanding one’s equals. It seeks not to have no master 
but to have only one’s equals for masters. 

In the state of nature, men are born in equality, but they cannot 
remain so. Society makes them lose their equality, and they become 
equal again only through the laws. 

The difference between the democracy that is regulated and the one 
that is not is that, in the former, one is equal only as a citizen, and, in the 
latter, one is also equal as a magistrate, senator, judge, father, husband, 
or master. 

The natural place of virtue is with liberty, but virtue can no more be 
found with extreme liberty than with servitude. 


Corruption of the principles of the governments 

chapter 4 

A particular cause of the corruption of the people 

Great successes, especially those to which the people contribute much, 
make them so arrogant that it is no longer possible to guide them. 
Jealous of the magistrates, they become jealous of the magistracy; 
enemies of those who govern, they soon become enemies of the 
constitution. In this way the victory at Salamis over the Persians 
corrupted the republic of Athens ; 4 in this way the defeat of the 
Athenians ruined the republic of Syracuse . 5 

The republic of Marseilles never underwent these great shifts from 
lowliness to greatness; thus, it always governed itself with wisdom; 
thus, it preserved its principles. 

4 Aristotle, Pol., bk. 5, chap. 4 [1304322-24]. 

5 Ibid. [Aristotle, Pol. 1304327-29). 


On the corruption of the principle of aristocracy 

Aristocracy is corrupted when the power of the nobles becomes 
arbitrary; there can no longer be virtue either in those who govern or in 
those who are governed. 

When the ruling families observe the laws, it is a monarchy that has 
many monarchs and is quite good by its nature; almost all these 
monarchs are bound by the laws. But when these families fail to 
observe the laws, it is a despotic state that has many despots. 

In this case the republic continues to exist only with regard to the 
nobles and only among them. The body that governs is a republic and 
the body that is governed is a despotic state; they are the two most ill- 
matched bodies in the world. 

Extreme corruption occurs when nobility becomes hereditary ; 6 the 
nobles can scarcely remain moderate. If they are few in number, their 
power is greater, but their security diminishes; if they are greater in 
number, their power is less and their security greater; so that power 

6 The aristocracy changes into an oligarchy. 


Part i 

keeps increasing and security diminishing up to the despot in whose 
person lies the extreme of power and danger. 

Therefore, a large number of nobles in an hereditary aristocracy will 
make the government less violent; but as there will be little virtue there, 
one will fall into a spirit of nonchalance, laziness, and abandon, which 
will make a state with neither force nor spring . 7 

An aristocracy can sustain the force of its principle if the laws are 
such that they make the nobles feel more strongly the perils and 
fatigues of command than its delights, and if the state is in such a 
situation that it has something to dread, and if security comes from 
within and uncertainty from without. 

A certain kind of confidence is the glory and security of a monarchy, 
but, by contrast, a republic must dread something . 8 Fear of the Persians 
maintained the laws among the Greeks. Carthage and Rome intimi- 
dated one another and were mutually strengthened. How singular! 
The more secure these states are, the more, as with tranquil waters, 
they are subject to corruption. 

7 Venice is one of the republics which has best corrected, by its laws, the drawbacks of 
hereditary aristocracy. 

8 Justin attributes the extinction of virtue in Athens to the death of Epaminondas. No longer 
rivalrous, the Athenians spent their income on festivals, “more frequently in attendance at 
tho- table [theater is the reading in modem texts] than at the camp” [L.]. Then the 
Macedonians came out of obscurity. [Justin, Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum], bk. 6 


On the corruption of the principle of monarchy 

Just as democracies are ruined when the people strip the senate, the 
magistrates, and the judges of their functions, monarchies are corrup- 
ted when one gradually removes the prerogatives of the established 
bodies* or the privileges of the towns. In the first case, one approaches 
the despotism of all; in the other, the despotism of one alone. 

“What ruined the dynasties of Tsin and Sui,” says a Chinese author, 
“is that the princes, instead of limiting themselves like the ancients to a 
general inspection, which is the only one worthy of a sovereign, wanted 

b prerogatives des corps. 

1 16 

Corruption of the principles of the governments 

to govern everything by themselves without an intermediary .” 9 Here 
the Chinese author gives us the cause for the corruption of almost all 

A monarchy is ruined when a prince believes he shows his power 
more by changing the order of things than by following it, when he 
removes the functions that are natural to some to give them arbitrarily 
to others, and when he is more enamoured of what he fancies than of 
what he wills. 

A monarchy is ruined when the prince, referring everything to 
himself exclusively, reduces the state to its capital, the capital to the 
court, and the court to his person alone. 

Finally, it is ruined when a prince misunderstands his authority, his 
situation, and his people’s love, and when he does not realize that a 
monarch should consider himself secure, just as a despot should 
believe himself imperiled. 

9 “Compilation of works done under the Ming,” reported by Father [Jean Baptiste] du 
Halde [ Description de VEmpire de la Chine 2, 781 H; 2, 648 P], 


Continuation of the same subject 

The principle of monarchy has been corrupted when the highest 
dignities are the marks of the greatest servitude, when one divests the 
important men of the people’s respect and makes them into vile 
instruments of arbitrary power. 

It has been corrupted even more when honor has been set in 
opposition to honors and when one can be covered at the same time 
with infamy 10 and with dignities. 

It has been corrupted when the prince changes his justice into 

10 Under the reign of Tiberius statues were raised and the triumphal ornaments were given 
to informers, which so degraded these honors that those who had deserved them scorned 
them. Fragment of [Cass.] Dio [ Historia Romana ], bk. 58 [58.4.8], drawn from the Extracts 
of Virtues and Vices of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. See in Tacitus how Nero, on the 
discovery and punishment of a supposed conspiracy, gave Petronius Turpilianus, Nerva, 
and Tigellinus triumphal ornaments. [Tacitus] Annales, bk. 14 [15.72]. See also how the 
generals scorned to wage war because they despised the honors. “The distinction of the 
triumph having been debased” [L.]. Tacitus, Annales, bk. 13 [13.53]. 

severity, when he puts a Medusa’s head on his breast" as did the 
Roman emperors, and when he takes on that menacing and terrible air 
which Commodus required in his statues . 12 

The principle of monarchy has been corrupted when some 
singularly cowardly souls grow vain from the greatness of their 
servitude and when they believe that what makes them owe everything 
to the prince makes them owe nothing to their homeland. 

But, if it is true (as has been seen through the ages) that insofar as the 
monarch’s power becomes immense, his security diminishes, is it not a 
crime of high treason against him to corrupt this power to the extent of 
changing its nature? 

"In this state the prince well knew what the principle of his government was. 

"Herodianus [Ab excessu divi Mara i. 14.9J. 


A danger of the corruption of the principle of monarchical 

It is nora drawback when the state passes from moderate government 
to moderate government, as from republic to monarchy or from 
monarchy to republic, but rather when it falls and collapses from 
moderate government into despotism. 

Most European peoples are still governed by mores. But if, by a long 
abuse of power or by a great conquest, despotism became established at 
a certain time, neither mores nor climate would hold firm, and in this 
fine part of the world, human nature would suffer, at least for a while, 
the insults heaped upon it in the other three. 


How much the nobility is inclined to defend the throne 

The English nobility was buried with Charles I in the debris of the 
throne; and before that, when Philip II sounded the name of liberty in 
French ears, the crown had always been sustained by that nobility 

Corruption of the principles of the governments 

which holds it an honor to obey a king but regards it as the sovereign 
infamy to share power with the people. 

The house of Austria tried persistently to oppress the Hungarian 
nobility. It did not know how much it would one day prize that nobility. 
It sought among these peoples silver they did not have; it did not see the 
men who were there. When the many princes had divided the states of 
the Hungarian monarchy among themselves, all its pieces fell, so to 
speak, one on top of the other, immobile and inactive: the only life that 
then remained was in the nobility, which grew indignant, forgot 
everything in order to fight, and believed that its glory lay in dying and 
in forgiving. 


On the corruption of the principle of despotic government 

The principle of despotic government is endlessly corrupted because it 
is corrupt by its nature. Other governments are destroyed because 
particular accidents violate their principle; this one is destroyed by its 
internal vice if accidental causes do not prevent its principle from 
becoming corrupt. Therefore, it can maintain itself only when circum- 
stances, which arise from the climate, the religion, and the situation or 
the genius of the people, force it to follow some order and to suffer 
some rule. These things force its nature without changing it; its ferocity 
remains; it is, for a while, tractable. 


Natural effects of the goodness and of the corruption of the 

Once the principles of the government are corrupted, the best laws 
become bad and turn against the state; when their principles are sound, 
bad laws have the effect of good ones; the force of the principle pulls 
everything along. 

The Cretans, in order to keep the highest magistrates dependent on 
the laws, used a very singular means: that of insurrection. Part of the 

Part i 

citizenry would rise up , 13 put the magistrates to flight, and oblige them 
to return to private life. This was supposedly done in pursuance of the 
law. Such an institution, which established sedition in order to prevent 
the abuse of power, seemed bound to overthrow any republic at all. It 
did not destroy that of Crete: here is why . 14 

When the ancients wanted to speak of a people who had the greatest 
love of the homeland, they cited the Cretans. The homeland, a tender 
name among the Cretans , said Plato . 15 They called it by a name that 
expresses a mother’s love for her children . 16 Now, love of the homeland 
corrects everything/ 

The laws of Poland have also their insurrection. But the drawbacks 
that result from it show clearly that only the people of Crete were in a 
state to use such a remedy successfully. 

The gymnastic exercises established among the Greeks depended 
no less on the goodness of the principle of government. “The 
Lacedaemonians and the Cretans,” said Plato , 17 “opened those 
famous academies that gave them such a distinguished rank in the 
world. At first modesty was alarmed, but it yielded to public useful- 
ness.” In Plato’s time, these institutions were remarkable ; 18 they were 
related to a great purpose, the military art. But when the Greeks were 
no longer virtuous, these institutions destroyed the military art itself; 
on# no longer went down to the wrestling arena to be trained but to be 
corrupted . 19 

Plutarch tells us 20 that, in his time, the Romans thought these games 
were the principal cause of the servitude into which the Greeks had 

13 Aristotle, Pol, bk. 2, chap. 10 [1 272b!— 1 5]. 

14 One always united first against the enemies from the outside; this was called syncretism. 
Plutarch, Moralia, p. 88 [De fratemo amore 490b]. 

15 [Plato] Republic, bk. 9 [573d]. 

16 Plutarch, Moralia, in the treatise An seni respublica gerenda sit [792c]. 

,7 [Plato] Republic, bk. 5 [452c-dJ. 

18 Gymnastic was divided into two parts, dancing and wresding. In Crete there were the 
armed dances of the Curettes; in Lacedaemonia, those of Castor and Pollux; in Athens, 
the armed dances of Pallas, quite proper for those who are not yet of an age to go to war. 
Wresding is the image of war, says Plato, Laws, bk. 7 [8i4d; see also 795e~796d]. He 
praises in antiquity the establishment of only two dances, the pacific and the pyrrhic. See 
how the latter dance was applied to the military art. Plato, ibid. [Laws 8i4d-8i6dJ. 

19 “. . . Or the lustful wresding arenas of the Lacedaemonians who are beloved of Leda” 
[L.]. Martial [Epigrammaton\, bk. 4, epig. 55 [4.55.6-7]. 

20 [Piutarch] Moralia, in the treatise Quaestiones Romanae [bk. 2, ques. 40, 274d-e[. 

r These observations are reinforced by the fact that the word palrie, “homeland,” is a 
feminine noun, and easily lends itself to personification as a mother. 


Corruption of the principles of the governments 

fallen. On the contrary: it was the Greeks’ servitude that had corrupted 
these exercises. In Plutarch’s time, 2 ’ the parks, where one fought 
naked, and the wrestling matches, made the young people cowardly, 
inclined them to an infamous love and made only dancers of them; but 
in Epaminondas’ time, wrestling had brought victory to the Thebans at 
the battle of Leuctra . 22 

There are few laws that are not good when the state has not lost its 
principles; and, as Epicurus said, speaking of wealth, “It is not the 
drink that is spoiled, it is the jar.” 

21 Plutarch, ibid. [Moralia, Quaestiones Romanae, bk. 2, ques. 40; 274d-e]. 

22 Plutarch, Moralia, Quaestionum convivialium, bk. 2 [bk. 2, ques. 5; 639^6403). 


Continuation of the same subject 

In Rome, judges were taken from the order of senators. The Gracchi 
transferred this prerogative to the knights. Drusus gave it to both 
senators and knights; Sulla, to senators alone; Cotta, to senators, 
knights, and public treasurers. Caesar excluded these last. Antony 
made decurions of senators, knights, and centurions. 

When a republic has been corrupted, none of the ills that arise can be 
remedied except by removing the corruption and recalling the 
principles; every other correction is either useless or a new ill. So long 
as Rome preserved its principles, judgments could be in the hands of 
the senators without suffering abuse; but when it had been corrupted, 
regardless of the body to which judgments were transferred, whether to 
senators, knights, or public treasurers, or to two of these bodies, to all 
three together, or to any other body at all, the result was always bad. 
Knights had no more virtue than senators, public treasurers no more 
than knights, and the latter as little as centurions. 

When the Roman people had secured their participation in the 
patrician magistracies, it was natural to think that their flatterers would 
be the arbiters of the government. No: one saw these people, who had 
opened the common magistracies to plebeians, always elect patricians. 
Because the people were virtuous, they were magnanimous; because 
they were free, they scorned power. But when they had lost th'dr 
principles, the more power they had, the less carefully they managed it, 


Part i 

until finally, having become their own tyrant and their own slave, they 
lost the strength of liberty and fell into the weakness of license. 


The effect of the oath on a virtuous people 

There has never been a people, says Livy , 23 to whom dissoluteness 
came later than to the Romans and among whom moderation and 
poverty were honored longer. 

The oath had so much force among these people that nothing 
attached them more to the laws. In order to observe an oath, they often 
did what they would never have done for glory or for the homeland. 

When the consul Quinctius Cincinnatus wanted to raise an army 
against the Aequi and the Volscians, the tribunes objected. “All right, 
then,” he said, “let all those who swore their oath to the consul last year 
march under my banner .” 24 In vain the tribunes cried out that no one 
was still bound by that oath and that when it had been sworn, Quinctius 
was a private citizen: the people were more religious than those who 
attempted to guide them; the people would not listen to the distinctions 
and Interpretations of the tribunes. 

When these same people wanted to withdraw to the Mons Sacer, 
they felt restrained by the oath they had sworn to follow the consuls to 
war . 25 They formed the design of killing the consuls; they were made to 
understand that the oath would none the less continue to exist. One can 
judge their idea of the violation of an oath by the crime they wanted to 

After the battle of Cannae, the people were frightened and wanted to 
withdraw to Sicily; Scipio made them swear they would remain in 
Rome; the fear of breaking their oath overcame every other fear. Rome 
in the storm was a vessel held by two anchors: religion and mores. 

23 [Livy] bk. 1 [Preface; 11], 

24 Livy, bk. 3 (3. 20.4]. 

25 Livy, bk. 2 [2.32.1-2]. 


Corruption of the principles of the governments 


How the slightest change in the constitution entails 
the ruin of the principles 

Aristotle speaks to us of the republic of Carthage as a well-regulated 
republic. Polybius tells us that during the Second Punic War , 26 the 
trouble in Carthage was that the senate had lost almost all its authority. 
Livy teaches us that when Hannibal returned to Carthage, he found the 
magistrates and principal citizens turning the public revenues to their 
own profit and abusing their power. Therefore, the virtue of the 
magistrates fell along with the authority of the senate; everything 
flowed from the same principle. 

The prodigious results of the censorship among the Romans are well 
known. At one time it became oppressive but was kept up because there 
was more luxury than corruption. Clodius weakened it; by that weaken- 
ing, corruption became even greater than luxury; and the censorship 27 
abolished itself, so to speak. Having been altered, demanded, resumed, 
and abandoned, it was entirely suspended until it became useless, I 
mean during the reigns of Augustus and Claudius. 

26 About a hundred years later [Polybius, Historia 6.51]. 

27 See [Cass.] Dio [Historia Romana j, bk. 38 [38.13.2]; Plutarch [Vit.], Cicero [29-30.2; 34. 1- 
2]; Cicero, Epistolae ad Atticum, bk. 4, letters 10 and 15 [4.9 and 16]; [Pseudo] Asconius 
[Pedianus], Sc&ofra Sangallensis Ciceronis , In Divinationem [3 .8; 2.189; see a ^ so Freinsheim, 
Supplementorum Livianorum, 103. 109]. 


Some very effective means of preserving the three principles 

I shall be able to be understood only when the next four chapters have 
been read. 


Part i 


Distinctive properties of the republic 

It is in the nature of a republic to have only a small territory; otherwise, 
it can scarcely continue to exist. In a large republic, there are large 
fortunes, and consequently little moderation in spirits: the depositories 
are too large to put in the hands of a citizen; interests become 
particularized; at first a man feels he can be happy, great, and glorious 
without his homeland; and soon, that he can be great only on the ruins 
of his homeland. 

In a large republic, the common good is sacrificed to a thousand 
considerations; it is subordinated to exceptions; it depends upon 
accidents. In a small one, the public good is better felt, better known, 
lies nearer to each citizen; abuses are less extensive there and conse- 
quently less protected. 

What made Lacedaemonia last so long is that, after all its wars, it 
always remained within its territory. Lacedaemonia’s only goal was 
liberty” the only advantage of its liberty was glory. 

It was in the spirit of the Greek republics for them to be as satisfied 
with their lands as they were with their laws. Athens was seized with 
ambition and transmitted it to Lacedaemonia; but this was in order to 
command free peoples rather than to govern slaves; to be at the head of 
the union rather than to shatter it. All was lost when a monarchy rose 
up, a government whose spirit tends more toward expansion. 

It is difficult for any government other than the republican to 
continue to exist in a single town unless there are particular circum- 
stances . 28 A prince of such a small state would naturally be inclined to 
oppression because he would have a great power and few ways to enjoy 
it or to make it respected; therefore he would trample his people 
greatly. Then again, such a prince would be easily oppressed by a 
foreign force or even by a domestic force; the people could come 
together and unite against him at any moment. Now, when the prince of 
a single town is driven from his town, the proceeding is finished; if he 
has several towns, it has just begun. 

28 As when a small sovereign maintains himself between two great states by their mutual 
jealousy; but he exists only precariously. 


Corruption of the principles of the governments 


Distinctive properties of monarchy 

A monarchical state should be of a medium size. If it were small, it 
would form itself into a republic; if it were quite extensive, the principal 
men of the state, being great in themselves, away from the eyes of the 
prince, with their court outside of his court, and, moreover, secured by 
the laws and by the mores from hasty executions, could cease to obey; 
they would not fear a punishment that was so slow and so distant. 

Thus, Charlemagne had scarcely founded his empire before it had 
to be divided, either because the governors of the provinces did not 
obey, or because they would obey better if the empire were divided into 
several kingdoms. 

After Alexander’s death, his empire was divided. How could those 
important men of Greece and Macedonia, who were once free or were 
at least leaders of conquering peoples then so scattered across that vast 
conquest, how could they have obeyed others? 

After Attila’s death, his empire was dissolved; the many kings who 
were no longer constrained could not take up their chains again. 

In these cases, the quick establishment of unlimited power is the 
remedy which can prevent dissolution: a new misfortune after that of 

Rivers run together into the sea; monarchies are lost in despotism. 


That the Spanish monarchy was a particular case 

Let Spain not be cited as an example; rather, it proves what I say. In 
order to hold America, it did what despotism itself does not do; it 
destroyed the inhabitants. In order to preserve its colony Spain had to 
keep it dependent even for its subsistence. 

Spain attempted despotism in the Low Countries, and, as soon as it 
had abandoned this attempt, it became more encumbered. On the one 
hand, the Walloons would not be governed by the Spaniards, and, on 
the other, the Spanish soldiers refused to obey the Walloon officers . 29 

29 See [Jean] Le Clerc, Histoiredes Provinces- Unies des Pays-Bas [e.g. 1,81; 1737-1738 edn]. 


Part i 

Spain maintained itself in Italy only by enriching Italy and ruining 
itself, for those who wanted to be rid of the king of Spain were 
nevertheless not in a humor to relinquish his money. 

chapter 19 

Distinctive properties of despotic government 

A large empire presupposes a despotic authority in the one who 
governs. Promptness of resolutions must make up for the distance of 
the places to which they are sent; fear must prevent negligence in the 
distant governor or magistrate; the law must be in a single person; and it 
must change constantly, like accidents, which always increase in 
proportion to the size of the state. 


Consequence of the preceding chapters 

If the natural property of small states is to be governed as republics, that 
of medium-sized ones, to be subject to a monarch, and that of large 
empires to be dominated by a despot, it follows that, in order to 
preserve the principles of the established government, the state must 
be maintained at the size it already has and that it will change its spirit to 
the degree to which its boundaries are narrowed or extended. 


On the Chinese empire 

Before completing this book, I shall answer an objection that may be 
raised about all 1 have said to this point. 

Our missionaries speak of the vast empire of China as of an 
admirable government, in whose principle intermingle fear, honor, and 


Corruption of the principles of the governments 

virtue. I would therefore have made an empty distinction in establish- 
ing the principles of the three governments. 

I do not know how one can speak of honor among peoples who can be 
made to do nothing without beatings . 30 

Moreover, our men of commerce, far from giving us an idea of the 
same kind of virtue of which our missionaries speak, can rather be 
consulted about the banditry of the mandarins . 31 I also call to witness 
the great man, Lord Anson. 

Besides, Father Parennin’s letters on the proceeding that the 
emperor caused to be brought against the neophyte princes of the 
blood 32 who had displeased him show us a tyrannical plan consistently 
followed and affronts to human nature done as a matter of rule, that is, 
in cold blood. 

We also have letters from M. de Mairan and the same Father 
Parennin concerning the government of China. After some very 
sensible questions and answers, the aura of the marvelous vanishes. 

Could it not be that the missionaries were deceived by an appearance 
of order, that they were struck by that continuous exercise of the will of 
one alone by which they themselves are governed and which they so like 
to find in the courts of the kings of India? For, as they go there only to 
make great changes, it is easier for them to convince princes that they 
can do everything than to persuade the peoples that they can suffer 
everything . 33 

Finally, there is often something true even in errors. Particular and 
perhaps unique circumstances may make it so that the Chinese 
government is not as corrupt as it should be. In this country causes 
drawn mostly from the physical aspect, climate, have been able to force 
the moral causes and, in a way, to perform prodigies. 

The climate of China is such that it prodigiously favors the 
reproduction of mankind. Women there have such great fertility that 

30 The stick governs China, says Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de ['Empire de la 
Chine, “Des prisons”; 2, 156-157 H; 2, 132-133 P; 2, 226 L). 

31 See, among others, the relation of Lange [Recueil de voyages au Nord, “Journal du Sieur 
Lange continuant ses negotiations a la cour de la Chine, 1721-1722”; vol. 8; 1727 edn]. 

32 Of the family of Sourniama, Letlres edifiantes el curieuses, 1 8 [Lettre du P. Parennin, Pekin, 
July 20, 1726; 18, 33-122; Pekin, August 24, 1726; t8, 248-311; 1728 edn]. 

33 In Father (Jean Baptiste] du Halde, see how the missionaries used the authority of Kang- 
hi to silence the mandarins who always said that by the laws of the country a foreign form of 
worship could not be established in the empire. (Jean Baptiste du Halde, Description de 
I’Empire de la Chine, “De l’etablissement et du progres de la religion chretienne,” 3, 1 26- 
136 H; 3, 104-111 P.] 


Part i 

nothing like it is seen elsewhere on earth. The cruellest tyranny cannot 
check the progress of propagation. The prince cannot say, with the 
Pharaoh, Let us oppress them wisely. He would be reduced, rather, to 
formulating Nero’s wish that mankind should have only one head. 
Despite tyranny, China, because of its climate, will always populate 
itself and will triumph over tyranny. 

China, like all countries where rice is grown , 34 is subject to frequent 
famines. When the people are starving, they scatter to seek something 
to eat. Everywhere bands of three, four, or five robbers form: most are 
immediately wiped out; others grow and are also wiped out. But, in 
such a great number of distant provinces, a group may meet with 
success. It maintains itself, grows stronger, forms itself into an army, 
goes straight to the capital, and its leader comes to the throne. 

The nature of the thing is such that bad government there is 
immediately punished. Disorder is born suddenly when this prodigious 
number of people lacks subsistence. What makes it so hard to recover 
from abuses in other countries is that the effects are not felt; the prince 
is not alerted as promptly and strikingly as in China. 

He will not feel, as our princes do, that if he governs badly, he will be 
less happy in the next life, less powerful and less rich in this one; he will 
know that, if his government is not good, he will lose his empire and his 

As the Chinese people become ever more numerous despite expos- 
ing their children , 35 they must work tirelessly to make the lands 
produce enough to feed themselves; this demands great attention on 
the part of the government. It is in its interest for everyone at every 
moment to be able to work without fear of being frustrated for his pains. 
This should be less a civil government than a domestic government. 

This is what has produced the rules that are so much discussed. 
Some have wanted to have laws reign along with despotism, but 
whatever is joined to despotism no longer has force. This despotism, 
beset by its misfortunes, has wanted in vain to curb itself; it arms itself 
with its chains and becomes yet more terrible. 

Therefore, China is a despotic state whose principle is fear. In the 
first dynasties, when the empire was not so extensive, perhaps the 
government deviated a little from that spirit. But that is not so today. 

34 See bk. 23, chap. 14, below. 

35 See the memoir of one Tsongtu, Leltres edifiantes el curieuses, 21 “Expedients pour faire 
defricherles terres incultes” [22.210-223; 1 736 edn}. 


Part 2 


On the laws in their relation with 
defensive force 


Hou> republics provide for their security 

If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it is large, it is 
destroyed by an internal vice. 

This dual drawback taints democracies and aristocracies equally, 
whether they are good or whether they are bad. The ill is in the thing 
itself; there is no form that can remedy it. 

Thus, it is very likely that ultimately men would have been obliged to 
live forever under the government of one alone if they had not devised a 
kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of republican 
government and the external force of monarchy. I speak of the federal 

This form of government is an agreement by which many political 
bodies consent to become citizens of the larger state that they want to 
form. It is a society of societies that make a new one, which can be 
enlarged by new associates that unite with it. 

Such associations made Greece flourish for so long. By using them, 
the Romans attacked the universe, and with their use alone, the 
universe defended itself from the Romans; and when Rome had 
reached its greatest height, the barbarians were able to resist it by 
associations made beyond the Danube and the Rhine, associations 
made from fright. 

Because of them, Holland , 1 Germany, and the Swiss leagues are 
regarded in Europe as eternal republics. 

Associations of towns were more necessary formerly than they are 
today. A city without power risked greater perils. Conquest made it lose 

'it is formed of about fifty republics, all of them different from one another. [Francois 
Michel] )am<;on, Etat present de la Republique des Provinces -Unies [x, 76; 1729 edn]. 

Part 2 

not only executive and legislative power, as today, but also all property 
among men . 2 

This sort of republic, able to resist external force, can be maintained 
at its size without internal corruption: the form of this society curbs 
every drawback. 

One who might want to usurp could scarcely have equal credit in all 
the confederated states. If he became too strong in one state, he would 
alarm all the others; if he subjugated a part, the part still free could 
resist him with forces independent of those he had usurped and 
overwhelm him before he had completely established himself. 

If a sedition occurs in one of the members of the confederation, the 
others can pacify it. If some abuses are introduced somewhere, they are 
corrected by the healthy parts. This state can perish in one place 
without perishing in another; the confederation can be dissolved and 
the confederates remain sovereign. 

Composed of small republics, it enjoys the goodness of the internal 
government of each one; and, with regard to the exterior, it has, by the 
force of the association, all the advantages of large monarchies. 

2 Civil liberty, goods, women, children, temples, and even sepulchers. 


That the federal constitution should he composed of states of 
the same nature , above all of republican states 

The Canaanites were destroyed because they were small monarchies 
that had not confederated and did not have a common defense. This is 
because it is not in the nature of small monarchies to confederate. 

The federal republic of Germany is composed of free towns and 
small states subject to princes. Experience shows that it is more 
imperfect than the federal republics of Holland and Switzerland. 

The spirit of monarchy is war and expansion; the spirit of republics is 
peace and moderation. The only way these two sorts of governments 
can continue to exist together in one federal republic is by force. 

Thus we see in Roman history that when the Veientes chose a king, 
all the small republics of Tuscany abandoned them. In Greece all 

* 3 * 

The laws and defensive force 

was lost when the Macedonian kings gained a place among the 

The federal republic of Germany, composed of princes and free 
towns, continues to exist because it has a leader who is, in a way, the 
magistrate of the union and, in a way, the monarch. 


Other things required in the federal republic 

In the republic of Holland, one province cannot make an alliance 
without the consent of the others. This law is good and even necessary 
in the federal republic. It is missing from the German constitution, 
where it would curb the misfortunes that can come to all the members 
from the imprudence, ambition, or avarice of one alone. A republic 
united in a political confederation has given itself entirely and has 
nothing more to give. 

It is unlikely that the states that associate will be of the same size and 
have equal power. The republic of the Lycians 3 was an association of 
twenty-three towns; the large ones had three votes in the common 
council; the medium-sized ones, two; the small ones, one. The 
republic of Holland is composed of seven provinces, large and small, 
each having one vote. 

The towns of Lycia 4 paid the costs in proportion to their votes. The 
provinces of Holland cannot follow this proportion; they must follow 
that of their power. 

In Lycia , 5 the judges and magistrates of the towns were elected by 
the common council in the proportion that we have said. In the republic 
of Holland, they are not elected by the common council, and each town 
names its magistrates. If one had to propose a model of a fine federal 
republic, I would choose the republic of Lycia. 

3 Strabo [Geographical bk. 14 [14.3.3]. 

4 Ibid. [Strabo, Geographica , 14.3.3]. 

5 Strabo [Geographica], bk. 14 [14.3.3]. 


Part 2 


How despotic states provide for their security 

Just as republics unite to provide for their security, despotic states 
separate and hold themselves, so to speak, apart. They sacrifice a part 
of the country, ravage the frontiers, and leave them deserted; the main 
part of the empire becomes inaccessible. 

It is accepted in geometry that the larger a body, the smaller, 
relatively, its circumference. Therefore, this practice of laying waste 
the frontiers is more tolerable in large states than in medium-sized 

This state does to itself all the ill that could be done by a cruel enemy, 
but an enemy that could not be checked. 

The despotic state preserves itself by another kind of separation, by 
which the distant provinces are put in the hands of a feudatory prince. 
The Moguls, the Persians, and the emperors of China have their 
feudatory princes; and the Turks are very well off for having put the 
Tartars, the Moldavians, the Walachians, and formerly the Tran- 
sylvanians between their enemies and themselves. 


How monarchy provides for its security 

Monarchy does not destroy itself as does the despotic state; but a state 
of medium size may quickly be invaded. Therefore, it has strongholds 
that protect its frontiers and armies that defend these strongholds. 
There one disputes artfully, courageously, and opinionatedly over the 
smallest area. Despotic states make invasions; only monarchies make 

Strongholds belong to monarchies; despotic states are afraid to have 
them. They dare not entrust them to anyone; for no one there loves the 
state or the prince. 


The laws and defensive force 

chapter 6 

On the defensive force of states in general 

For a state to be at its full force, its size must be such that there is a 
relation between the speed with which one can execute an undertaking 
against it and its promptness in rendering this ineffective. As the one 
who attacks can suddenly appear everywhere, the one who defends 
must also be able to appear everywhere; consequently, the state must 
be of a medium extent so as to be proportionate to the degree of speed 
nature has given men to move from one place to another. 

France and Spain are precisely the requisite size. Their forces 
communicate so well that they go immediately where they are wanted; 
the armies join together and go rapidly from one frontier to the other; 
and one fears none of the things that need a certain amount of time for 
their execution. 

It is remarkably fortunate for France that its capital is closer to the 
different frontiers in proportion to their greater weakness; and the 
prince here sees each part of his country the better as it is the more 

But when a vast state, such as Persia, is attacked, several months 
must pass before the dispersed troops can assemble, and there can be 
no forced march for this length of time, as there can be for two weeks. If 
the army on the frontier is beaten, it will surely disperse because its 
places of retreat are not nearby; the victorious army, finding no 
resistance, advances by long daily marches, appears at the capital, and 
besieges it, when the governors of the provinces have just been alerted 
to send help. Those who judge the revolution at hand hasten it by not 
obeying. For people, faithful only because punishment is at hand, are 
no longer faithful when it is distant; they work for their own particular 
interests. The empire dissolves, the capital is taken, and the conqueror 
disputes the provinces with the governors. 

The true power of a prince consists not so much in the ease he has in 
conquering as in the difficulty there is in attacking him, and, if I dare 
put it this way, in the immutability of his condition. But the expansion 
of states makes them expose new sides from which they can be taken. 

Thus, just as monarchs should be wise in increasing their power, 
they should be no less prudent in limiting it. While they put an end to 


Part 2 

the drawbacks of being small, they must always have an eye out for the 
drawbacks of being large. 



The enemies of a great prince who has long reigned have accused him a 
thousand times, more from fears than from reasons, I believe, of having 
formed and pursued the project of universal monarchy." If he had 
succeeded in it nothing would have been more fatal to Europe, to his 
first subjects, to himself, and to his family. Heaven, which knows the 
true advantages, has better served him by defeats than it would have by 
victories. Instead of making him the only king in Europe, it has favored 
him more by- making him the most powerful of all. 

The people of his nation, who, in foreign countries, are affected only 
by that which they have left behind, who, on leaving their home, regard 
glory as the sovereign good, and in distant countries, as an obstacle to 
their re^rn, who antagonize even by their good qualities because they 
seem to join scorn to them, who can bear wounds, perils, or exhaustion, 
but not the loss of their pleasures, who love nothing so much as their 
gaiety and are consoled for the loss of a battle by singing of their 
general, would never have completed such an undertaking, which 
cannot fail in one country without failing in all others, or fail for a 
moment without failing forever. 

“This prince was Louis XIV. 


A case where the defensive force of a state is inferior to its 
offensive force 

The comment of Sir De Coucy to King Charles V was that “the 
English are never so weak or so easy to defeat as at home.” This is what 
was said of the Romans; this is what the Carthaginians experienced; it 
is what will happen to any power that has sent its armies far away in 


The laws and defensive force 

order to bring together by force of discipline and of military power 
those who are divided among themselves by political or civil interests. 
The state is weak because of the ill that remains and has been further 
weakened by the remedy. 

The maxim of Sir De Coucy is an exception to the general rule by 
which one is never to undertake distant wars. And this exception 
indeed proves the rule, because it applies only to those who have 
themselves broken the rule. 

chapter 9 

On the relative force of states 

All size, all force, all power is relative. One must take care that in 
seeking to increase real size, one does not diminish relative size. 

Toward the middle of the reign of Louis XIV, France was at the 
highest point of its relative size. Germany did not yet have the great 
monarchs it has since had. Italy was in the same situation. Scotland and 
England had not formed a monarchy. Aragon had not formed one with 
Castile; and the separate parts of Spain were weakened by this and 
weakened Spain. Muscovy was as yet no better known in Europe than 
was the Crimea. 


On the weakness of neighboring states 

When a neighboring state is in its decline, one should take care not to 
hasten its ruin, because this is the most fortunate situation possible; 
there is nothing more suitable for a prince than to be close to another 
who receives in his stead all the blows and outrages of fortune. By 
conquering such a state, one rarely increases as much in real power as 
one loses in relative power. 


BOOK 10 

On laws in their relation with 
offensive force 


On offensive force 

Offensive force is regulated by the right of nations, which is the political 
law of the nations considered in their relation with each other. 


On war 

The life of states is like that of men. Men have the right to kill in the 
case of natural defense; states have the right to wage war for their own 

In the case of natural defense, I have the right to kill, because my life 
is mine, as the life of the one who attacks me is his; likewise a state 
wages war because its preservation is just, as is any other preservation. 

Among citizens, the right to natural defense does not carry with it a 
necessity to attack. Instead of attacking they have the recourse of the 
tribunals. Therefore, they can exercise that right of defense only in 
cases that occur so suddenly that one would be lost if one waited for the 
aid of the laws. But among societies, the right of natural defense 
sometimes carries with it a necessity to attack, when one people sees 
that a longer peace would put another people in a position to destroy it 
and that an attack at this moment is the only way to prevent such 

Hence small societies more frequently have the right to wage wars 
than large ones, because they are more frequently in a position to fear 
being destroyed. 

The laws and offensive force 

Therefore, the right of war derives from necessity and from a strict 
justice. If those who direct the conscience or the councils of princes do 
not hold to these, all is lost; and, when that right is based on arbitrary 
principles of glory, of propriety, of utility, tides of blood will inundate 
the earth. 

Above all, let one not speak of the prince’s glory; his glory is his 
arrogance; it is a passion and not a legitimate right. 

It is true that his reputation for power could increase the forces of his 
state, but his reputation for justice would increase them in any case. 


On the right of conquest 

From the right of war derives that of conquest, which is its conse- 
quence; therefore, it should follow the spirit of the former. 

When a people is conquered, the right of the conqueror follows four 
sorts of laws: the law of nature, which makes everything tend toward the 
preservation of species; the law of natural enlightenment, 0 which wants 
us to do to others what we would want to have done to us; the law that 
forms political societies, which are such that nature has not limited 
their duration; lastly, the law drawn from the thing itself. Conquest is 
an acquisition; the spirit of acquisition carries with it the spirit of 
preservation and use, and not that of destruction. 

One state that has conquered another treats it in one of these four 
ways: the state continues to govern its conquest according to its own 
laws and takes for itself only the exercise of the political and civil 
government; or it gives its conquest a new political and civil govern- 
ment; or it destroys the society and scatters it into others; or, finally, it 
exterminates all the citizens. 

The first way conforms to the right of nations we follow at present; 
the fourth is more in conformity with the right of nations among the 
Romans; on this point, I leave others to judge how much better we have 
become. Here homage must be paid to our modern times, to con- 
temporary reasoning, to the religion of the present day, to our philo- 
sophy, and to our mores. 

“Montesquieu uses lumieres, which we translate as “enlightenment”; it also implies 
insight or illumination. 


Part 2 

When the authors of our public right, for whom ancient histories 
provided the foundation, have no longer followed cases strictly, they 
have fallen into great errors. They have moved toward the arbitrary; 
they have assumed among conquerors a right, I do not know which one, 
of killing; this has made them draw consequences as terrible as this 
principle and establish maxims that the conquerors themselves, when 
they had the slightest sense, never adopted. It is clear that, once the 
conquest is made, the conqueror no longer has the right to kill, because 
it is no longer for him a case of natural defense and of his own 

What has made them think in this way is that they have believed the 
conqueror had the right to destroy the society; thus they have con- 
cluded that he had the right to destroy the men composing it, which is a 
consequence wrongly drawn from a wrong principle. For, from the 
annihilation of the society, it would not follow that the men forming that 
society should also be annihilated. The society is the union of men and 
not the men themselves; the citizen may perish and the man remain. 

From the right to kill during conquest, political men have drawn the 
right to reduce to servitude, but the consequence is as ill founded as the 

One has the right to reduce a people to servitude only when it is 
necessary for the preservation of a conquest. The purpose of conquest 
is preservation; servitude is never the purpose of conquest, but it is 
sometimes a necessary means for achieving preservation. 

In this case, it is against the nature of the thing for this servitude to be 
eternal. It must be possible for the enslaved people to become subjects. 
Slavery is accidental to conquest. When, after a certain length of time, 
all the parts of the conquering state are bound to those of the 
conquered state by customs, marriage, laws, associations, and a certain 
conformity of spirit, servitude should cease. For the rights of the 
conqueror are founded only on the fact that these things do not exist 
and that there is a distance between the two nations, such that the one 
cannot trust the other. 

Thus, the conqueror who reduces a people to servitude should 
always reserve for himself means (and these means are innumerable) 
for allowing them to leave it. 

I am not saying vague things here. Our fathers who conquered the 
Roman Empire acted in this way. They softened the laws that they 
made in the heat, impetuosity, and arrogance of victory; their laws had 


The laws and offensive force 

been hard, they made them impartial. The Burgundians, the Goths, 
and the Lombards wanted the Romans to continue to be the 
vanquished people; the laws of Euric, of Gundobad, and of Rotharis 
made the barbarian and the Roman fellow citizens. u 

To subdue the Saxons, Charlemagne deprived them of their 
freeborn status and of the ownership of goods. Louis the Pious freed 
them ; 2 he did nothing better during his reign. Time and servitude had 
softened their mores; they were forever faithful to him. 

'See the law codes of the barbarians, and book 28 below. 

2 See the anonymous author [“Astronomous”) or the life of Louis the Pious in the 
Duchesne collection, vol. 2, p. 296 [Vila Hludowici Imperaioris, MGH, SS. 2; chap. 24, 
anno 814). 

'’See 28.5 for an elaboration of the personal law of the barbarians. 


Some advantages for the conquered peoples 

Instead of drawing such fatal consequences from the right of conquest, 
political men would have done better to speak of the advantages this 
right can sometimes confer on a vanquished people. They would have 
been more sensitive to these advantages if our right of nations were 
followed exactly and if it were established around the earth. 

Ordinarily states that are conquered do not have the force they had at 
their institution: corruption has entered them; their laws have ceased to 
be executed; the government has become an oppressor. Who can doubt 
that there would be gain for such a state and that it would draw other 
advantages from the conquest itself, if the conquest were not destruc- 
tive? What would the government lose by being recast, if it had reached 
the point of being unable to reform itself? A conqueror who comes to a 
people among whom the rich, by a thousand ruses and a thousand 
tricks, have imperceptibly practiced an infinite number of usurpations; 
where the unfortunate man who trembles as he watches what he 
believed to be abuses become laws is oppressed and believes himself 
wrong to feel so; a conqueror, I say, can change the course of 
everything, and muffled tyranny is the first thing which is liable to 

Part 2 

For example, one has seen states whose oppression by tax-collectors 
was relieved by the conqueror, who had neither the engagements nor 
the needs of the legitimate prince. Abuses were corrected even without 
the conqueror’s correcting them. 

The frugality of the conquering nation has sometimes put it in a 
position to leave the vanquished people the necessities that had been 
taken from them under the legitimate prince. 

A conquest can destroy harmful prejudices, and, if I dare speak in 
this way, can put a nation under a better presiding genius. 

What good could the Spanish not have done the Mexicans? They 
had a gentle religion to give them; they brought them a raging 
superstition. They could have set the slaves free, and they made 
freemen slaves. They could have made clear to them that human 
sacrifice was an abuse; instead they exterminated them. I would never 
finish if I wanted to tell all the good things they did not do, and all the 
evil ones they did. 

It is for the conqueror to make amends for part of the evils he has 
done. I define the right of conquest thus: a necessary, legitimate, and 
unfortunate right, which always leaves an immense debt to be dis- 
charged if human nature is to be repaid. 


Gelon, King of Syracuse 

The finest peace treaty mentioned in history is, I believe, the one Gelon 
made with the Carthaginians. He wanted them to abolish the custom of 
sacrificing their children . 3 Remarkable thing! After defeating three 
hundred thousand Carthaginians, he exacted a condition useful only to 
them, or rather, he stipulated one for mankind. 

The Bactrians had their elders eaten by large dogs; Alexander 
forbade them to do this , 4 and this was a triumph he gained over 

3 See the collection by [Jean] Barbeyrac [Histoiredes anciens traitez ], art. 1 1 2 [art. 113; 1739 

4 Strabo [ Geographica ], bk. 2 [11.11.3]. 


The laws and offensive force 


On a republic that conquers 

It is against the nature of the thing for one confederated state under a 
federal constitution to conquer another, as we have seen among the 
Swiss in our own time . 5 In mixed federal republics, with an association 
of small republics and small monarchies, such conquest is less 

It is also against the nature of the thing for a democratic republic to 
conquer towns that could not enter the sphere of the democracy. As the 
Romans had established from the beginning, the conquered people 
must be able to enjoy the privileges of sovereignty. The limit to 
conquest should be the number of citizens fixed for the democracy. 

If a democracy conquers a people in order to govern it as a subject, it 
will expose its own liberty, because it will entrust too much power to the 
magistrates whom it sends out to the conquered state. 

What danger would not the republic of Carthage have run if 
Hannibal had taken Rome? Having caused so many revolutions in his 
own town after his defeat, what might he not have done there after that 
victory ? 6 

Hanno could never have persuaded the senate not to send aid to 
Hannibal if he had let only his jealousy speak. That senate, which 
Aristotle tells us was very wise (something the prosperity of that 
republic proves very well)/ could reach a decision only for sensible 
reasons. One would have had to be dull-witted not to see that an army 
three hundred leagues away had had necessary losses that had to be 

Hanno’s party wanted Hannibal to surrender to the Romans . 7 At 
that time, one could not have feared the Romans; therefore, one feared 

Hannibal’s successes, they say, could not be believed; but how could 
they be doubted? Were the Carthaginians, scattered around the earth, 

5 Of Tockenburg. 

6 He was at the head of a faction. 

7 Hanno wanted to surrender Hannibal to the Romans, as Cato wanted Caesar to be 
surrendered to the Gauls. 

r Aristotle, Politics 1 272b24~4 i . 


Part 2 

unaware of what was happening in Italy? It was because they were 
aware of it that they did not want to send help to Hannibal. 

Hanno became firmer after Trebia, after Trasimene, after Cannae; 
it is not their incredulity that grows, it is their fear. 


Continuation of the same subject 

There is still another drawback to conquests made by democracies. 
Their kind of government is always odious to subject states. It is 
monarchical only by a fiction; but, in truth, it is harsher than monarchy, 
as the experience of all times and all countries has shown. 

The conquered peoples are in a sad state; they enjoy the advantages 
neither of the republic nor of the monarchy. 

What I have said of the popular state can be applied to aristocracy. 


Continuation of the same subject 

Thus, when a republic holds a people dependent, it must seek to make 
amends for the drawbacks that arise from the nature of the thing by 
giving this people a good political right and good civil laws. 

An Italian republic held certain islanders obedient to it, but its 
political and civil right in their regard was faulty. One recalls the act of 
amnesty 8 that stipulated that they would no longer be condemned to 
corporal penalties on the privy knowledge of the governor f Peoples have 
often asked for privileges; here it is the sovereign who grants what is the 
right of all nations. 

8 Of October 18, 1738, printed at Genoa by Franchelli. “We forbid our Governor-general 
in this said Island [Corsica] to condemn to grievous punishment any person based solely 
on his own privy information [ex informata conscientia]. He will certainly be able to arrest 
and imprison such persons who are suspect, provided that he render to us a speedy 
account” [It.], art. 6. [This reference has not been verified.] 

d The “corporal penalties” are peines afflictives, meaning imprisonment or death. 


The lam and offensive force 

chapter 9 

On a monarchy that conquers its neighbors 

If a monarchy can have an influence long before its expansion weakens 
it, it will become formidable; and its force wil last as long as neighbor- 
ing monarchies continue to press it. 

Therefore it should conquer only up to the limits natural to its 
government. Prudence wants it to check itself as soon as it exceeds 
these limits. 

In this sort of conquest, things must be left as they were found: the 
same tribunals, the same laws, the same customs, the same privileges. 
Nothing should be changed but the army and the sovereign’s name. 

When the monarchy has extended its limits by the conquest of a few 
neighbouring provinces, it must treat them very gently. 

In a monarchy that has worked long for conquest, the provinces of its 
first domain will ordinarily be badly trampled. They have to suffer both 
the new abuses and the old ones, and often a vast capital that engulfs 
everything has decreased their population. Now if, after the conquest 
of the area around this domain, the vanquished peoples were treated as 
were the first subjects, the state would be lost; what the conquered 
provinces would send in tribute to the capital would no longer return to 
them; the frontiers would be ruined, and consequently weaker; the 
peoples would be badly affected by this; the sustenance of armies that 
were to remain there and have influence would be more precarious. 

Such is the necessary state of a conquering monarchy: frightful 
luxury in the capital, poverty in the provinces at some distance from it, 
abundance at the farthest points. It is as it is with our planet: fire is in 
the center, greenery on the surface, and between them an arid, cold, 
and sterile land. 


On a monarchy that conquers another monarchy 

Sometimes one monarchy conquers another. The smaller the latter is, 
the better it will be contained by strongholds; the larger, the better 
preserved by colonies. 


Part 2 


On the mores of the vanquished people 

In these conquests, it is not enough to leave the vanquished nation its 
laws; it is perhaps more necessary to leave it its mores, because a people 
always knows, loves, and defends its mores better than its laws. 

The French were driven out of Italy nine times because, say the 
historians , 9 they were insolent to women and girls. It is too much for a 
nation to have to suffer not only the conqueror’s pride but also his 
incontinence; not only both these but also his indiscretion, probably the 
more trying because it multiplies outrages to infinity. 

9 See [Samuel] Pufendorf, Introduction a Vhhtoire generate et politique de t’univers [see, for 
example, p. 358; 1700 Latin edn; bk. t, chap. 4; 1, 343; 1743 Fr. edn]. 


On a law of Cyrus 

I do not consider good the law that Cyrus made: that the Lydians could 
exercise none but vile or infamous professions. One attends to the most 
urgent; one thinks of rebellions and not invasions. But invasions will 
soon come; the two peoples unite; they corrupt each other. I should 
prefer that the laws maintained the roughness of the victorious people 
than that they kept up the softness of the vanquished people. 

Aristodemus, tyrant of Cumae , 10 sought to weaken the courage of 
the youth. He wanted the boys to let their hair grow long like a girl’s, 
dressing it with flowers, and to wear variously colored robes down to 
their heels; to have women bring them their parasols, perfumes, and 
fans when they went to their dancing masters and their music masters; 
in the bath women gave them their combs and mirrors. This education 
lasted until the age of twenty. This is suitable only for a petty tyrant, 
who risks his sovereignty in order to defend his life. 

10 Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.), bk. 7 [7.9.3-51. 


The laws and offensive force 


Charles XII 

This prince, who used only his own forces, brought on his fall by 
forming designs that could be executed only by a long war, one which 
his kingdom could not support. 

It was not a state in its decline that he attempted to overthrow, but a 
rising empire. The war this prince waged against the Muscovites 
served them as a school. After each defeat, they came closer to victory; 
and, while losing abroad, they learned to defend themselves at home. 

Charles believed himself master of the world in the uninhabited 
regions of Poland where he roamed and in which Sweden was spread 
out, as it were, while his principal enemy strengthened itself against 
him, surrounded him, established itself on the Baltic Sea, and 
destroyed or captured Livonia. 

Sweden was like a river whose waters were cut off at the source while 
its course was being deflected. 

It was not Poltava that ruined Charles; if he had not been destroyed 
at that place, he would have been destroyed at another. Accidents of 
fortune are easily rectified; one cannot avert events that continuously 
arise from the nature of things/ 

But neither nature nor fortune was ever as strong against him as he 

He was not ruled by the actual arrangement of things, but rather by a 
certain model he had chosen; even this he followed badly. He was not 
Alexander but he would have been Alexander’s best soldier. 

Alexander’s project succeeded only because it was sensible. The 
unfavorable results of the Persians’ invasions of Greece, the conquests 
of Agesilaus and the retreat of the Ten Thousand had made known just 
how superior the Greek manner of doing battle and their sort of 
weapons were; and it was well known that the Persians were too great to 
correct themselves. 

They could no longer weaken Greece by dividing it; it was then 
united under a leader for whom there was no better means of hiding its 

'In 1 757 the beginning of this clause was changed from mats comment purer to on ne pent 
pas parer. Although in the Masson edition the punctuation has not been changed from 
a question-mark to a period, we have changed it in the translation. 


Part 2 

servitude from it than to dazzle it by the destruction of its eternal 
enemies and by the expectation of conquering Asia. 

As the empire was cultivated by a nation of the most industrious 
people in the world who plowed their lands on account of religious 
principle, a nation fertile and abundant in all things, it was very easy for 
an enemy to subsist there. 

By the arrogance of these kings, always humbled in vain by their 
defeats, one might judge that they would hasten their downfall by 
always giving batde and that flattery would never allow them to doubt of 
their greatness. 

And not only was the project wise, but it was wisely executed. 
Alexander, in the rapidity of his actions, even in the heat of his passions, 
was led by a vein of reason, if I dare use the term, and those who have 
wanted to make a romance of his story, those whose spirit was more 
spoiled than his, have been unable to hide it from us. Let us speak about 
him at length. 

chapter 14 


He left Greece only after securing Macedonia from the neighboring 
barbarian peoples and completely oppressing the Greeks; he used this 
oppression only for the execution of his enterprise; he rendered the 
Lacedaemonians’ jealousy powerless; he attacked the maritime prov- 
inces; he made his army follow the seashore in order not to be 
separated from his fleet; he used discipline remarkably well against 
numbers; he did not lack provisions; and if it is true that victory gave 
him everything, he also did everything in order to gain victory. 

In the beginning of his enterprise, that is, at a time when a defeat 
could have set him back, he left little to chance; when fortune set him 
above events, temerity was sometimes one of his means. When he 
marches against the Triballians and Illyrians before his departure, you 
see a war like the one Caesar later waged in Gaul . 11 On his way to 
Greece , 12 it is almost in spite of himself that he captures and destroys 

n See Arrian, Anabasis, bk. 1 [1.1.4-1.4.8]. 
,2 Ibid. [Arrian, Anabasis 1.7-8.] 


The lam and offensive force 

Thebes; camped near their city, he waits until the Thebans want to 
make peace; they themselves hasten their ruin. When it is a question of 
battling the naval forces of the Persians , 13 Parmenion is the more 
audacious, but Alexander is the wiser. By his industry he maneuvered 
the Persians away from the seashore and reduced them to abandoning 
their navy, which was superior. In principle, Tyre was attached to the 
Persians, who could not do without its commerce and its navy; 
Alexander destroyed it. He took Egypt, which Darius had left stripped 
of troops while he was collecting innumerable armies in another 

Alexander owed his mastery of the Greek colonies to the crossing of 
the Granicus; the battle of Issus gave him Tyre and Egypt; the battle of 
Arbela gave him the whole earth. 

After the battle of Issus, he lets Darius flee and concerns himself 
only with consolidating and ruling his conquests; after the battle of 
Arbela, he follows Darius so closely 14 that he leaves him no retreat in 
his empire. Darius enters his towns and provinces only to leave again; 
Alexander’s marches are so rapid that you believe that empire of the 
universe is the prize for running, as in the Greek games, rather than the 
prize for victory. 

It is thus that he made his conquests; let us see how he preserved 

He resisted those who wanted him to treat 15 the Greeks as masters 
and the Persians as slaves; he thought only of uniting the two nations 
and wiping out the distinctions between the conquerors and the 
vanquished: after the conquest, he abandoned all the prejudices that 
had served him in making it; he assumed the mores of the Persians in 
order not to distress the Persians by making them assume the mores of 
the Greeks; this is why he showed so much respect for the wife and the 
mother of Darius and why he was so continent. Who is this conqueror 
who is mourned by all the peoples he subjected? Who is this usurper 
whose death moved to tears the family he had removed from the 
throne? This aspect of his life, historians tell us, can be claimed by no 
other conqueror. 

Nothing strengthens a conquest more than unions by marriage 

13 Ibid. [Arrian, Anabasis 1.18.6-9.] 

14 Ibid. [Arrian, Anabasis], bk. 3 [3. 19-21]. 

15 This was Aristotle’s counsel. Plutarch, Moralia, DeAlexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute [1.6; 


Part 2 

between two peoples. Alexander took wives from the nation he had 
vanquished; he wanted the men of his court 16 to do likewise; the rest of 
the Macedonians followed his example. The Franks and the 
Burgundians 17 allowed these marriages; in Spain the Visigoths for- 
bade 18 them and later permitted them; the Lombards not only permit- 
ted them but even fostered them ; 19 when the Romans wanted to 
weaken Macedonia, they established there that no unions by marriage 
could be made between the peoples of one province and another. 

Alexander, who sought to unite the two peoples, thought of making a 
large number of Greek colonies in Persia; he built an infinite number of 
towns and cemented all the parts of this new empire so well that after 
his death, in the trouble and confusion of the most horrible civil wars, 
after the Greeks had annihilated themselves, so to speak, none of the 
Persian provinces rebelled. 

In order not to drain Greece and Macedonia, he sent a colony of 
Jews to Alexandria ; 20 it was unimportant to him what mores these 
peoples had, provided they were faithful to him. 

He left to the vanquished peoples not only their mores but also their 
civil laws and often even the kings and governors he had found there. 
He put the Macedonians 21 at the head of the troops and people from 
the incraded country at the head of the government, preferring to run 
the risk of the unfaithfulness of some individuals (which occured a few 
times) to a general rebellion. He respected the old traditions and 
everything that recorded the glory or the vanity of these peoples. The 
kings of Persia had destroyed the temples of the Greeks, Babylonians, 
and Egyptians; he rebuilt them ; 22 there were few nations at whose altars 
he did not sacrifice; it seemed he had conquered only to be the 
monarch of each nation and the first citizen of each town. The Romans 
conquered all in order to destroy all; he wanted to conquer all in order 
to preserve all, and in every country he entered, his first ideas, his first 
designs, were always to do something to increase its prosperity and 

16 See Arrian, Anabasis, bk. 7 [7. 4.4-8]. 

17 See th c Leges Burgundionum, tit. 12, art. 5 (12.5]. 

^SetXhtLexWisigothorum, bk. 3, tit. 5, para. 1 [3.1.1], It abrogates the earlier law, which, it 
says, had more regard to the difference between nations than to that between conditions. 
19 See the Leges Langobardorum, bk. 2, tit. 7, paras, t {Liut. 127] and 2 [Loth. 14 (pap)]. 

20 The kings of Syria, abandoning the plan of the empire’s founders, wanted to oblige the 
Jews to take on the mores of the Greeks, which jolted their state terribly. 

21 See Arrian, Anabasis, bk. 3 and elsewhere [for example, 3.5, 16] and others. 

22 Ibid. [Arrian, Anabasis, 3.16.4-5.] 


The laws and offensive force 

power. He found the first ways for doing this in the greatness of his 
genius; the second, in his own frugality and his own economy ; 23 the 
third, in his immense prodigality for great things. His hand was closed 
for private expenditures; it opened for public expenditures. Was it a 
question of regulating his household? He was a Macedonian. Was it a 
question of paying soldiers’ debts, of letting the Greeks share in his 
conquest, of making the fortune of each man in his army? He was 

He did two things that were bad: he burned Persepolis and killed 
Clitus. He made them famous by his repentance, so that one forgot his 
criminal actions and remembered his respect for virtue, so that these 
actions were considered misfortunes rather than things proper to him, 
so that posterity finds the beauty of his soul at virtually the same time as 
his ravings and his weaknesses, so that one had to be sorry for him and it 
was no longer possible to hate him. 

I shall compare him to Caesar: when Caesar wanted to imitate the 
kings of Asia, he drove the Romans to despair over a thing of pure 
ostentation; when Alexander wanted to imitate the kings of Asia, he did 
a thing that entered into the plan of his conquest. 

23 See Arrian, Anabasis, bk. 7 [7.9.9.] 


A new means for preserving the conquest 

When a monarch conquers a large state, there is an admirable practice, 
equally proper for moderating despotism and for preserving the 
conquest; those who conquered China put it to use. 

In order not to drive the vanquished people to despair and not to 
make the victor more arrogant, in order to keep the government from 
becoming military and to hold the two peoples to their duty, the Tartar 
family now reigning in China has established that each body of troops 
in the provinces would be composed half of Chinese and half of 
Tartars, so that the jealousy between the two nations will hold them to 
their duty. The tribunals are likewise half Chinese, half Tartar. This 
produces many good results: 1. the two nations constrain one another; 
2. both keep military and civil power, and one is not wiped out by the 

Part 2 

other; 3. the conquering nation can spread throughout without 
weakening and ruining itself; it becomes capable of resisting civil and 
foreign wars. This is such a sensible institution, that the absence of a 
like one has led to the ruin of almost all the conquerors on earth. 


On a despotic state that conquers 

An immense conquest presupposes despotism. In this case, the army 
that is spread out in the provinces is insufficient. There must always be 
a specially trustworthy body around the prince, always ready to assail 
the part of the empire that may waver. This guard should constrain the 
others and make tremble all those to whom one has been obliged to 
leave some authority in the empire. Around the emperor of China, a 
massive body of Tartars always stands ready in case of need. Among the 
Moguls, among the Turks, and in Japan, there is a body in the prince’s 
pay, independent of the one maintained by the revenue from the lands. 
These special forces keep the general ones respectful. 



Continuation of the same subject 

We have said that the states conquered by the despotic monarch should 
be feudatory. Historians tire themselves praising the generosity of 
conquerors who have returned the crown to princes whom they have 
vanquished. Therefore, the Romans, who made kings everywhere in 
order to have instruments of servitude, were quite generous. 24 Such an 
action is a necessary act. If the conqueror keeps the conquered state, 
the governors he sends will not be able to constrain the subjects, nor 
will he, his governors. He will be obliged to strip his first patrimony of 
troops in order to safeguard the new one. All the misfortunes of the two 
states will be shared; the civil war of the one will be the civil war of the 
other. But if, on the contraiy, the conqueror returns the throne to the 

24 “They considered even kings to be instruments of servitude” [L.] [TzciXus, Agricola 14]. 


The laws and offensive force 

legitimate prince, he will of necessity have an ally who, with his own 
forces, will increase those of the conqueror. We have recently seen 
Shah Nadir conquer the treasures of the Mogul and leave Hindustan to 


BOOK 11 

On the laws that form political liberty in 
its relation with the constitution 


General idea 

I distinguish the laws that form political liberty in its relation with the 
constitution from those that form it in its relation with the citizen. The 
first are the subject of the present book; I shall discuss the second in the 
next book. 


The various significations given to the word liberty 

No word has received more different significations and has struck 
minds in so many ways as has liberty. Some have taken it for the ease of 
removing the one to whom they had given tyrannical power; some, for 
the faculty of electing the one whom they w ere to obey; others, for the 
right to be armed and to be able to use violence; yet others, for the 
privilege of being governed only by a man of their own nation, or by 
their own laws.' For a certain people liberty has long been the usage of 
wearing a long beard . 2 Men have given this name to one form of 
government and have excluded the others. Those who had tasted 
republican government put it in this government; those who had 
enjoyed monarchical government placed it in monarchy . 3 In short, each 

'Cicero [Epistolae ad Atticum 6.1.15] says, “I have copied Scaevola’s edict, which permits 
the Greeks to end their differences among themselves according to their laws; this makes 
them regard themselves as free peoples.” 

2 The Muscovites could not bear Czar Peter’s order to cut them off. 

3 The Cappadocians refused the republican state the Romans offered them. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

has given the name of liberty to the government that was consistent with 
his customs or his inclinations; and as, in a republic, one does not 
always have visible and so present the instruments of the ills of which 
one complains and as the very laws seem to speak more and the 
executors of the law to speak less, one ordinarily places liberty in 
republics and excludes it from monarchies. Finally, as in democracies 
the people seem very nearly to do what they want, liberty has been 
placed in this sort of government and the power of the people has been 
confused with the liberty of the people. 


What liberty is 

It is true that in democracies the people seem to do what they want, but 
political liberty in no way consists in doing what one wants. In a state, 
that is, in a society where there are laws, liberty can consist only in 
having the power to do what one should want to do and in no way being 
constrained to do what one should not want to do. 

One must put oneself in mind of what independence is and what 
liberty is. Liberty is the right to do everything the laws permit; and if 
one citizen could do what they forbid, he would no longer have liberty 
because the others would likewise have this same power. 


Continuation of the same subject 

Democracy and aristocracy are not free states by their nature. Political 
liberty is found only in moderate governments. But it is not always in 
moderate states. It is present only when power is not abused, but it has 
eternally been observed that any man who has power is led to abuse it; 
he continues until he finds limits. Who would think it! Even virtue has 
need of limits. 

So that one cannot abuse power, power must check power by the 
arrangement of things. A constitution can be such that no one will be 


Part 2 

constrained to do the things the law does not oblige him to do or be kept 
from doing the things the law permits him to do. 


On the purpose of various states 

Although all states have the same purpose in general, which is to 
maintain themselves, yet each state has a purpose that is peculiar to it. 
Expansion was the purpose of Rome; war, that of Lacedaemonia; 
religion, that of the Jewish laws; commerce, that of Marseilles; public 
tranquillity, that of the laws of China ; 4 navigation, that of the laws of the 
Rhodians; natural liberty was the purpose of the police of the savages; 
in general, the delights of the prince are the purpose of the despotic 
states; his glory and that of his state, that of monarchies; the 
independence of each individual is the purpose of the laws of Poland, 
and what results from this is the oppression of all . 5 

There is also one nation in the world whose constitution has political 
liberty for its direct purpose. We are going to examine the principles on 
which this nation founds political liberty. If these principles are good, 
liberty will appear there as in a mirror. 

Not much trouble need be taken to discover political liberty in the 
constitution. If it can be seen where it is, if it has been found, why seek 

4 The natural purpose of a state having no enemies on the outside or believing them checked 
by barriers. 

5 Drawback of the liberum veto. 


On the constitution of England 

In each state there are three sorts of powers: legislative power, 
executive power over the things depending on the right of nations, and 
executive power over the things depending on civil right. 

By the first, the prince or the magistrate makes laws for a time or for 
always and corrects or abrogates those that have been made. By the 


Political liberty and the constitution 

second, he makes peace or war, sends or receives embassies, 
establishes security, and prevents invasions. By the third, he punishes 
crimes or judges disputes between individuals. The last will be called 
the power of judging, and the former simply the executive power of the 

Political liberty in a citizen is that tranquillity of spirit which comes 
from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him to 
have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot 
fear another citizen. 

When legislative power is united with executive power in a single 
person or in a single body of the magistracy, there is no liberty, because 
one can fear that the same monarch or senate that makes tyrannical 
laws will execute them tyrannically. 

Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separate from 
legislative power and from executive power. If it were joined to 
legislative power, the power over the life and liberty of the citizens 
would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator. If it were 
joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an 

All would be lost if the same man or the same body of principal men, 
either of nobles, or of the people, exercised these three powers: that of 
making the laws, that of executing public resolutions, and that of 
judging the crimes or the disputes of individuals. 

In most kingdoms in Europe, the government is moderate because 
the prince, who has the first two powers, leaves the exercise of the third 
to his subjects. Among the Turks, where the three powers are united in 
the person of the sultan, an atrocious despotism reigns. 

In the Italian republics, where the three powers are united, there is 
less liberty than in our monarchies. Thus, in order to maintain itself, 
the government needs means as violent as in the government of the 
Turks; witness the state inquisitors 6 and the lion’s maw into which an 
informer can, at any moment, throw his note of accusation. 

Observe the possible situation of a citizen in these republics. The 
body of the magistracy, as executor of the laws, retains all the power it 
has given itself as legislator. It can plunder the state by using its general 
wills; and, as it also has the power of judging, it can destroy each citizen 
by using its particular wills. 

6 In Venice. 


Part 2 

There, all power is one; and, although there is none of the external 
pomp that reveals a despotic prince, it is felt at every moment. 

Thus princes who have wanted to make themselves despotic have 
always begun by uniting in their person all the magistracies, and many 
kings of Europe have begun by uniting all the great posts of their 

I do believe that the pure hereditary aristocracy of the Italian 
republics is not precisely like the despotism of Asia. The multitude of 
magistrates sometimes softens the magistracy; not all the nobles always 
concur in the same designs; there various tribunals are formed that 
temper one another. Thus, in Venice, the Great Council has legislation; 
the Pregadi, execution; Quarantia , the power of judging. But the ill is 
that these different tribunals are formed of magistrates taken from the 
same body; this makes them nearly a single power. 

The power of judging should not be given to a permanent senate but 
should be exercised by persons drawn from the body of the people 7 at 
certain times of the year in the manner prescribed by law to form a 
tribunal which lasts only as long as necessity requires. 

In this fashion the power of judging, so terrible among men, being 
Cached neither to a certain state nor to a certain profession, becomes, 
so to speak, invisible and null. Judges are not continually in view; one 
fears the magistracy, not the magistrates." 

In important accusations, the criminal in cooperation with the law 
must choose the judges, or at least he must be able to challenge so many 
of them that those who remain are considered to be of his choice. 

The two other powers may be given instead to magistrates or to 
permanent bodies because they are exercised upon no individual, the 
one being only the general will of the state, and the other, the execution 
of that general will. 

But though tribunals should not be fixed, judgments should be fixed 
to such a degree that they are never anything but a precise text of the 
law. If judgments were the individual opinion of a judge, one would live 
in this society’ without knowing precisely what engagements one has 

Further, the judges must be of the same condition as the accused, or 

7 As in Athens. 

"These juges , “jurors,” as the office is called in English, are judges as they make the 


Political liberty and the constitution 

his peers, so that he does not suppose that he has fallen into the hands 
of people inclined to do him violence. 

If the legislative power leaves to the executive power the right to 
imprison citizens who can post bail for their conduct, there is no longer 
any liberty, unless the citizens are arrested in order to respond without 
delay to an accusation of a crime the law has rendered capital; in this 
case they are really free because they are subject only to the power of 
the law. 

But if the legislative power believed itself endangered by some secret 
conspiracy against the state or by some correspondence with its 
enemies on the outside, it could, for a brief and limited time, permit the 
executive power to arrest suspected citizens who would lose their 
liberty for a time only so that it would be preserved forever. 

And this is the only means consistent with reason of replacing the 
tyrannical magistracy of the ephors and the state inquisitors of Venice, 
who are also despotic. 

As, in a free state, every man, considered to have a free soul, should 
be governed by himself, the people as a body should have legislative 
power; but, as this is impossible in large states and is subject to many 
drawbacks in small ones, the people must have their representatives do 
all that they themselves cannot do. 

One knows the needs of one’s own town better than those of other 
towns, and one judges the ability of one’s neighbors better than that of 
one’s other compatriots. Therefore, members of the legislative body 
must not be drawn from the body of the nation at large; it is proper for 
the inhabitants of each principal town to choose a representative from 

The great advantage of representatives is that they are able to discuss 
public business. The people are not at all appropriate for such 
discussions; this forms one of the great drawbacks of democracy. 

It is not necessary that the representatives, who have been generally 
instructed by those who have chosen them, be instructed about each 
matter of business in particular, as is the practice in the Diets of 
Germany. It is true that, in their way, the word of the deputies would 
better express the voice of the nation; but it would produce infinite 
delays and make each deputy the master of all the others, and on the 
most pressing occasions the whole force of the nation could be checked 
by a caprice. 

Mr. Sidney says properly that when the deputies represent a body of 


Part 2 

people, as in Holland, they should be accountable to those who have 
commissioned them; it is another thing when they are deputed by 
boroughs, as in England.* 

In choosing a representative, all citizens in the various districts 
should have the right to vote except those whose estate is so humble 
that they are deemed to have no will of their own. 

A great vice in most ancient republics was that the people had the 
right to make resolutions for action, resolutions which required some 
execution, which altogether exceeds the people’s capacity. The people 
should not enter the government except to choose their representa- 
tives; this is quite within their reach. For if there are few people who 
know the precise degree of a man’s ability, yet every one is able to know, 
in general, if the one he chooses sees more clearly than most of the 

Nor should the representative body be chosen in order to make some 
resolution for action, a thing it would not do well, but in order to make 
laws or in order to see if those they have made have been well executed; 
these are things it can do very well and that only it can do well. 

In a state there are always some people who are distinguished by 
birth, wealth, or honors; but if they were mixed among the people and if 
they had only one voice like the others, the common liberty would be 
their enslavement and they would have no interest in defending it, 
because most of the resolutions would be against them. Therefore, the 
part they have in legislation should be in proportion to the other 
advantages they have in the state, which will happen if they form a body 
that has the right to check the enterprises of the people, as the people 
have the right to check theirs. 

Thus, legislative power will be entrusted both to the body of the 
nobles and to the body that will be chosen to represent the people, each 
of which will have assemblies and deliberations apart and have separate 
views and interests. 

Among the three powers of which we have spoken, that of judging is 
in some fashion, null. There remain only two; and, as they need a 
power whose regulations temper them, that part of the legislative body 
composed of the nobles is quite appropriate for producing this effect. 

The nobility should be hereditary. In the first place, it is so by its 
nature; and, besides, it must have a great interest in preserving its 

* Algernon Sidney, 1622-1683, an English Whig politician and author of Discourses 
Concerning Government (1698), chap. 3, sect. 38. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

prerogatives, odious in themselves, and which, in a free state, must 
always be endangered. 

But, as a hereditary power could be induced to follow its particular 
interests and forget those of the people, in the things about which one 
has a sovereign interest in corrupting, for instance, in the laws about 
levying silver coin, it must take part in legislation only through its 
faculty of vetoing and not through its faculty of enacting. 

I call the right to order by oneself, or to correct what has been 
ordered by another, the faculty of enacting. I call the right to render null a 
resolution taken by another the faculty of vetoing, which was the power of 
the tribunes of Rome. And, although the one who has the faculty of 
vetoing can also have the right to approve, this approval is no more than 
a declaration that one does not make use of one’s faculty of vetoing, and 
it derives from that faculty. 

The executive power should be in the hands of a monarch, because 
the part of the government that almost always needs immediate action 
is better administered by one than by many, whereas what depends on 
legislative power is often better ordered by many than by one. 

If there were no monarch and the executive power were entrusted to 
a certain number of persons drawn from the legislative body, there 
would no longer be liberty, because the two powers would be united, 
the same persons sometimes belonging and always able to belong to 

If the legislative body were not convened for a considerable time, 
there would no longer be liberty. For one of two things would happen: 
either there would no longer be any legislative resolution and the state 
would fall into anarchy; or these resolutions would be made by the 
executive power, and it would become absolute. 

It would be useless for the legislative body to be convened without 
interruption. That would inconvenience the representatives and 
besides would overburden the executive power, which would not think 
of executing, but of defending its prerogatives and its right to execute. 

In addition, if the legislative body were continuously convened, it 
could happen that one would do nothing but replace the deputies who 
had died with new deputies; and in this case, if the legislative body were 
once corrupted, the ill would be without remedy. When various 
legislative bodies follow each other, the people, holding a poor opinion 
of the current legislative body, put their hopes, reasonably enough, in 
the one that will follow; but if the legislative body were always the same, 

1 6 1 

Part 2 

the people, seeing it corrupted, would expect nothing further from its 
laws; they would become furious or would sink into indolence. 

The legislative body should not convene itself. For a body is 
considered to have a will only when it is convened; and if it were not 
convened unanimously, one could not identify which part was truly the 
legislative body, the part that was convened or the one that was not. For 
if it had the right to prorogue itself, it could happen that it would never 
prorogue itself; this would be dangerous in the event that it wanted to 
threaten executive power. Besides, there are some times more suitable 
than others for convening the legislative body; therefore, it must be the 
executive power that regulates, in relation to the circumstances it 
knows, the time of the holding and duration of these assemblies. 

If the executive power does not have the right to check the enter- 
prises of the legislative body, the latter will be despotic, for it will wipe 
out all the other powers, since it will be able to give to itself all the power 
it can imagine. 

But the legislative power must not have the reciprocal faculty of 
checking the executive power. For, as execution has the limits of its 
own nature, it is useless to restrict it; besides, executive power is always 
exercised on immediate things. And the power of the tribunes in Rome 
was faulty in that it checked not only legislation but even execution; this 
caused great ills. 

But if, in a free state, legislative power should not have the right to 
check executive power, it has the right and should have the faculty to 
examine the manner in which the laws it has made have been executed; 
and this is the advantage of this government over that of Crete and 
Lacedaemonia, where the kosmoi and the ephors were not held account- 
able for their administration. 

But, whether or not this examination is made, the legislative body 
should not have the power to judge the person, and consequently the 
conduct, of the one who executes. His person should be sacred 
because, as he is necessary to the state so that the legislative body does 
not become tyrannical, if he were accused or judged there would no 
longer be liberty. 

In this case, the state would not be a monarchy but an unfree 
republic. But, as he who executes cannot execute badly without having 
as ministers wicked counsellors who hate the law although the laws 
favor them as men, these counsellors can be sought out and punished. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

And this is the advantage of this government over that of Cnidus, where 
the people could never get satisfaction for the injustices that had been 
done to them, as the law did not permit calling the amymones 8 to 
judgment even after their administration . 9 

Although in general the power of judging should not be joined to any 
part of the legislative power, this is subject to three exceptions founded 
on the particular interests of the one who is to be judged. 

Important men are always exposed to envy; and if they were judged 
by the people, they could be endangered and would not enjoy the 
privilege of the last citizen of a free state, of being judged by his peers. 
Therefore, nobles must not be called before the ordinary tribunals of 
the nation but before that part of the legislative body composed of 

It could happen that the law, which is simultaneously clairvoyant and 
blind, might be too rigorous in certain cases. But the judges of the 
nation are, as we have said, only the mouth that pronounces the words 
of the law, inanimate beings who can moderate neither its force nor its 
rigor. Therefore, the part of the legislative body, which we have just 
said is a necessary tribunal on another occasion, is also one on this 
occasion; it is for its supreme authority to moderate the law in favor of 
the law itself by pronouncing less rigorously than the law. 

It could also happen that a citizen, in matters of public business, 
might violate the rights of the people and commit crimes that the 
established magistrates could not or would not want to punish. But, in 
general, the legislative power cannot judge, and even less so in this 
particular case, where it represents the interested party, the people. 
Therefore, it can be only the accuser. But, before whom will it make its 
accusation? Will it bow before the tribunals of law, which are lower than 
it and are, moreover, composed of those who, being also of the people, 
would be swept along by the authority of such a great accuser? No: in 
order to preserve the dignity of the people and the security of the 
individual, that part of the legislature drawn from the people must 
make its accusation before the part of the legislature drawn from the 
nobles, which has neither the same interests nor the same passions. 

8 These were magistrates elected annually by the people. See Stephanus of Byzantium 
[Ethnika 686; 1958 edn]. 

9 One could accuse the Roman magistrates after their magistracy. In Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom. J, 
bk. 9 [9.37.2-4], see the affair of the tribune Genutius. 

Part 2 

This last is the advantage of this government over most of the ancient 
republics, where there was the abuse that the people were judge and 
accuser at the same time. 

Executive power, as we have said, should take part in legislation by its 
faculty of vetoing; otherwise it will soon be stripped of its prerogatives. 
But if legislative power takes part in execution, executive power will 
equally be lost. 

If the monarch took part in legislation by the faculty of enacting, 
there would no longer be liberty. But as in spite of this, he must take 
part in legislation in order to defend himself, he must take part in it by 
the faculty of vetoing. 

The cause of the change in government in Rome was that the senate, 
which had one part of the executive power, and the magistrates, who 
had the other, did not have the faculty of vetoing, as the people had. 

Here, therefore, is the fundamental constitution of the government 
of which we are speaking. As its legislative body is composed of two 
parts, the one will be chained to the other by their reciprocal faculty of 
vetoing. The two will be bound by the executive power, which will itself 
be bound by the legislative power. 

The form of these three powers should be rest or inaction. But as 
they are constrained to move by the necessary motion of things, they 
will be forced to move in concert. 

As executive power belongs to the legislative only through its faculty 
of vetoing, it cannot enter into the discussion of public business. It is 
not even necessary for it to propose, because, as it can always 
disapprove of resolutions, it can reject decisions on propositions it 
would have wanted left unmade. 

In some ancient republics, where the people as a body discussed the 
public business, it was natural for the executive power to propose and 
discuss with them; otherwise, there would have been a strange con- 
fusion in the resolutions. 

If the executive power enacts on the raising of public funds without 
the consent of the legislature, there will no longer be liberty, because 
the executive power will become the legislator on the most important 
point of legislation. 

If the legislative power enacts, not from year to year, but forever, on 
the raising of public funds, it runs the risk of losing its liberty, because 
the executive power will no longer depend upon it; and when one holds 
such a right forever, it is unimportant whether that right comes from 


Political liberty and the constitution 

oneself or from another. The same is true if the legislative power 
enacts, not from year to year, but forever, about the land and sea forces, 
which it should entrust to the executive power. 

So that the one who executes is not able to oppress, the armies 
entrusted to him must be of the people and have the same spirit as the 
people, as they were in Rome until the time of Marius. This can be so in 
only two ways: either those employed in the army must have enough 
goods to be answerable for their conduct to the other citizens and be 
enrolled for a year only, as was practiced in Rome; or, if the troops must 
be a permanent body, whose soldiers come from the meanest parts of 
the nation, legislative power must be able to disband them as soon as 
the legislature so desires; the soldiers must live with the citizens, and 
there must not be a separate camp, a barracks, or a fortified place. 

Once the army is established, it should be directly dependent on the 
executive power, not on the legislative body; and this is in the nature of 
the thing, as its concern is more with action than with deliberation. 

Men’s manner of thinking is to make more of courage than of 
timidity; more of activity than of prudence; more of force than of 
counsel. The army will always scorn a senate and respect its officers. It 
will not make much of the orders sent from a body composed of people 
it believes timid and, therefore, unworthy to command it. Thus, 
whenever the army depends solely on the legislative body, the govern- 
ment will become military. And if the contrary has ever occured, it is 
the effect of some extraordinary circumstances; it is because the army 
there is always separate, because it is composed of several bodies each 
of which depends upon its particular province, because the capitals are 
in excellent locations whose situation alone defends them and which 
have no troops. 

Holland is even more secure than Venice; it could flood rebellious 
troops; it could leave them to die of hunger; since the troops are not in 
towns that could give them sustenance, their sustenance is precarious. 

For if, in the case of an army governed by the legislative body, 
particular circumstances keep the government from becoming military, 
one will encounter other drawbacks; one of these two things must 
happen, either the army must destroy the government, or the govern- 
ment must weaken the army. 

And this weakening will have a fatal cause: it will arise from the very 
weakness of the government. 

If one wants to read the admirable work by Tacitus, On the Mores of 

Part 2 

the Germans™ one will see that the English have taken their idea of 
political government from the Germans. This fine system was found in 
the forests. 

Since all human things have an end, the state of which we are 
speaking will lose its liberty; it will perish. Rome, Lacedaemonia, and 
•Carthage have surely perished. This state will perish when legislative 
power is more corrupt than executive power. 

It is not for me to examine whether at present the English enjoy this 
liberty or not. It suffices for me to say that it is established by their laws, 
and I seek no further. 

I do not claim hereby to disparage other governments, or to say that 
this extreme political liberty should humble those who have only a 
moderate one. How could I say that, I who believe that the excess even 
of reason is not always desirable and that men almost always accom- 
modate themselves better to middles than to extremities? 

Harrington, in his Oceana / has also examined the furthest point of 
liberty to which the constitution of a state can be carried. But of him it 
can be said that he sought this liberty only after misunderstanding it, 
and that he built Chalcedon with the coast of Byzantium before his 

l0 “On lesser matters the princes consult, on greater ones, everybody does; yet even when a 
decision is in the power of the people, it is thoroughly considered by the princes” [L.J. 
[Tacitus, Germania, chap, i i.J 

“James Harrington, Commonwealth of Oceana. 


The monarchies that we know 

The monarchies we know do not have liberty for their direct purpose as 
does the one we have just mentioned; they aim only for the glory of the 
citizens, the state, and the prince. But this glory results in a spirit of 
liberty that can, in these states, produce equally great things and can 
perhaps contribute as much to happiness as liberty itself. 

The three powers are not distributed and cast on the model of the 
constitution which we have mentioned; each instance shows a particu- 
lar distribution of them and each approximates political liberty accord- 


Political liberty and the constitution 

ingly; and, if it did not approximate it, the monarchy would degenerate 
into despotism. 


Why the ancients had no clear idea of monarchy 

The ancients did not at all know the government founded on a body of 
nobility and even less the government founded on a legislative body 
formed of the representatives of a nation. The republics of Greece and 
Italy were towns in which each had its own government and assembled 
its own citizens within its walls. Before the Romans had swallowed up 
all the republics, there were almost no kings anywhere, in Italy, Gaul, 
Spain, Germany; all of these were small peoples or small republics. 
Even Africa was subject to a large republic; Asia Minor was occupied 
by Greek colonies. Therefore, there was no example either of deputies 
from towns or of assemblies of the estates; one had to go as far as Persia 
to find the government of one alone. 

It is true that there were federal republics; many towns sent deputies 
to an assembly. But I say that there was no monarchy on this model. 

Here is how the plan for the monarchies that we know was formed. 
The Germanic nations who conquered the Roman Empire were very 
free, as is known. On the subject one has only to see Tacitus on the 
Mores of the Germans. The conquerors spread out across the country; 
they lived in the countryside, rarely in the towns. When they were in 
Germany, the whole nation could be assembled. When they dispersed 
during the conquest, they could no longer assemble. Nevertheless, the 
nation had to deliberate on its business as it had done before the 
conquest; it did so by representatives. Here is the origin of Gothic 
government among us. It was at first a mixture of aristocracy and 
monarchy. Its drawback was that the common people were slaves; it 
was a good government that had within itself the capacity to become 
better. Giving letters of emancipation became the custom, and soon the 
civil liberty of the people, the prerogatives of the nobility and of the 
clergy, and the power of the kings, were in such concert that there has 
never been, I believe, a government on earth as well tempered as that of 
each part of Europe during the time that this government continued to 
exist; and it is remarkable that the corruption of the government of a 

Part 2 

conquering people should have formed the best kind of government 
men have been able to devise. 

chapter 9 

Aristotle's manner of thinking 

An awkwardness is clearly seen in Aristotle’s treatment of monarchy . 1 1 
He establishes five kinds: he does not distinguish among them by the 
form of the constitution but by accidental things, like the virtues or the 
vices of the prince, or by extrinsic things, like the usurpation of the 
tyranny or succession to it. 

Aristotle includes in the list of monarchies both the empire of the 
Persians and the kingdom ofLacedaemonia. But who does not see that 
the one was a despotic state and the other a republic? 

The ancients, who did not know of the distribution of the three 
powers in the government of one alone, could not achieve a correct idea 
of monarchy. 

11 (Aristotle) Pol., bk. 3, chap. 14 [1 284535—1 28sb33]. 


The manner of thinking of other political men 

In order to temper the government of one alone, Arribas , 12 king of 
Epirus, could imagine only a republic. The Molossians, not knowing 
how to restrict this power, made two kings ; 13 this weakened the state 
more than the command: one wanted rivals, and one had enemies. 

Two kings were allowed only in Lacedaemonia; they did not form 
the constitution there but rather were a part of the constitution. 

12 See Justin [Epitome historiarum Philippicarum\, bk. 17 [17. 3. 12]. 
13 Aristotle, Pol., bk. 5, chap. 9 [1313324], 


Political liberty and the constitution 


On the kings of heroic times among the Greeks 

Among the Greeks in heroic times, a kind of monarchy was established 
that did not continue to exist . 14 Those who had invented the arts, waged 
war for the people, assembled men who were scattered here and there 
or given them lands, won the kingdom for themselves and passed it 
down to their children. They were kings, priests, and judges. This is 
one of the five kinds of monarchy of which Aristotle speaks , 15 and this is 
the only one that might arouse the idea of the monarchical constitution. 
But the plan of this constitution is the opposite of that of our 
monarchies today. 

The three powers were distributed there so that the people had the 
legislative power , 16 and the king, the executive power and the power of 
judging; whereas, in the monarchies we know, the prince has the 
executive and the legislative power, or at least a part of the legislative 
power, but he does not judge. 

In the government of the kings of heroic times, the three powers 
were badly distributed. These monarchies could not continue to exist; 
for, as soon as the people could legislate, they could reduce royalty to 
nothing at the least caprice, as they did everywhere. 

Among a free people who have legislative power, among a people 
enclosed within a town, where everything odious becomes even more 
odious, the masterwork of legislation is to know where properly to place 
the power of judging. But it could not be placed worse than in the hands 
of the one who already had executive power. The monarch became 
terrible immediately. But at the same time, since he did not legislate, he 
could not defend himself against legislation; he had too much power 
and he did not have enough. 

It had not yet been discovered that the prince’s true function was to 
establish judges and not to judge. The opposite policy rendered 
unbearable the government of one alone. All these kings were driven 
out. The Greeks did not imagine the true distribution of the three 
powers in the government of one alone, they imagined it only in the 

14 Aristotle, Pol., bk. 3, chap. 14 [1 285b2— 19]. l5 Ibid. [Aristotle, Pol. I285b2-i9). 

l6 See Plutarch [Vit.\, Theseus [24, 25.2]. See also Thucydides [The Peloponnesian War], bk. 1 


Part 2 

government of many, and they called this sort of constitution, 

police } ld 

17 See Aristotle, Pol.,bV.. 4, chap. 8 [1293830-1294325]. 

‘'Here Montesquieu makes a connection between police (see note r , bk. 4; note rf , bk. 12; 
note r , bk. 26) and the "polity” of the Greeks. 


On the government of the Roman kings and how the three 
powers were distributed in it 

The government of the Roman kings was somewhat related to that of 
the kings of heroic times among the Greeks. Like them it fell, from its 
general vice, although in itself and in its particular nature it was very 

In order to make this government understood, I shall distinguish the 
government of the first five kings from that of Servius Tullius and from 
that ofTarquin. 

The crown was elective; and under the first five kings, the senate 
took the greatest part in their election. 

After a king died, the senate considered whether one would keep the 
form of government that had been established. If the senate judged it 
advisable to keep the form of government, it named a magistrate 18 
drawn from its body to elect a king; the senate had to approve the 
election; the people, to confirm it; the auspices, to guarantee it. If one of 
these three conditions were missing, there had to be another election. 

The constitution was monarchical, aristocratic, and popular, and 
such was the harmony of power that there was neither jealousy nor 
dispute in the first reigns. The king commanded the armies and had the 
stewardship of the sacrifices; he had the power of judging civil 19 and 
criminal 20 suits; he convoked the senate; he assembled the people; he 

18 Dion. Hal. (An t. Rom.], bk. 2, p. 120 [2.58.3]; bk. 4, pp. 242-243 [4.40.2]. 

19 See the discourse by Tanaquil in Livy, decade i,bk. 1 [1.41, 43]; and the ruling of Servius 
Tullius in Dion. Hal. (Ant. Rom.], bk. 4, p. 229 [4.25.2]. 

20 See Dion. Hal. (Ant. Rom.], bk. 2, p. 118 [2.56.3; see also 2.14.1], and bk. 3, p. 171 
13 - 30 - 1 - 51 - 


Political liberty and the constitution 

brought certain matters of public business before them and ruled on 
others with the senate . 21 

The senate had great authority. The kings often picked senators to 
judge with them; they brought matters of public business to the people 
only after these had been deliberated upon in the senate . 22 

The people had the right to elect magistrates , 23 to consent to the new 
laws, and, when the king permitted, to declare war and to make peace. 
They did not have the power to judge. When Tullius Hostilius referred 
the judgment of Horatius to the people, he had particular reasons that 
are found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus . 24 

The constitution changed under Servius Tullius . 25 The senate had 
no part in his election; he had himself proclaimed king by the people. 
He divested himself of civil judgments 26 and kept only criminal 
judgments for himself; he carried all public business directly to the 
people; he relieved the people of taxes and put the entire load on the 
patricians. Thus, to the extent that he weakened the royal power and 
the authority of the senate, he increased the power of the people . 27 

Tarquin had himself elected neither by the senate nor by the people; 
he regarded Servius Tullius as a usurper and took the crown as a 
hereditary right; he exterminated most of the senators; he no longer 
consulted those who remained and did not even summon them to hear 
his judgments . 28 His power increased, but what was odious about this 
power became still more odious: he usurped the power of the people; 
he made laws without them; he even made some in opposition to 
them . 29 He would have united the three powers in his person, but the 
people remembered at a certain moment that they were the legislator, 
and Tarquin was no longer. 

21 It was by a senatus-consult that Tullius Hostilius was sent to destroy Alba. Dion. Hal. 
[Ant. Rom. j, bk. 3, pp. 167 and 172 [3.26.6; 3.31. 1-2]. 

22 Ibid. [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom.], bk. 4, p. 276 ([275] 4.84.2; see also 4.75.4]. 

23 Ibid. [Dion. Hal.,Ant. Rom.], bk. 2 [2.14.3], They nevertheless must not have filled all the 
posts, because Valerius Publicola made the famous law forbidding any citizen to hold any 
post unless he had obtained it by the suffrage of the people. 

24 [Dion. Hal ,,Ant. Rom.] bk. 3, p. 159 [3.22.4-8]. 

25 [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom.] bk. 4 [4.40.1]. 

26 “He gave up half the royal power,” says Dion. Hal. [Ant . Rom.], bk. 4, p. 229 [4.25.1 ]. 

■^People believed that if he had not been prevented by Tarquin, he would have established 
popular government. Dion. Hal. [Ant . Rom.], bk. 4, p. 243 [4.40.3]. 

28 Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 4 [4.42.4]. 

29 Ibid. [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom., 4.43-44.] 


Part 2 


General Reflections on the state of Rome after the expulsion 
of the kings 

One can never leave the Romans; thus it is that even today in their 
capital one leaves the new palaces to go in search of the ruins; thus it is 
that the eye that has rested on flower-strewn meadows likes to look at 
rocks and mountains. 

The patrician families had always had great prerogatives. These 
distinctions, great under the kings, became much more important after 
the kings were expelled. This caused jealousy among the plebeians, 
who wanted to bring down the patricians. Disputes struck at the 
constitution without weakening the government, for, provided the 
magistracies preserved their authority, it did not matter from which 
family the magistrates came. 

An elective monarchy, as was Rome, necessarily assumes a powerful 
aristocratic body that sustains it; this failing, it changes immediately 
into a tyranny or into a popular state. But a popular state does not need 
family distinctions to maintain itself. This is why the patricians, who 
were necessary parts of the constitution at the time of the kings, became 
a superfluous part of it at the time of the consuls; the people were able 
to bring down the patricians without destroying themselves and to 
change the constitution without corrupting it. 

When Servius Tullius debased the patricians, Rome had to fall from 
the hands of the kings into those of the people. But when the people 
brought the patricians down, they did not have to fear falling back into 
the hands of the kings. 

A state can change in two ways: either because its constitution is 
corrected or because it is corrupted. If the state has preserved its 
principles and its constitution changes, the latter corrects itself; if the 
state has lost its principles when its constitution starts to change, the 
constitution is corrupted. 

After the expulsion of the kings, Rome would have been a 
democracy. The people already had legislative power; their unanimous 
vote had driven out the kings, and if their will had flagged, the Tarquins 
could have returned at any moment. To claim that the people had 
wanted to drive away the kings only to become slaves to a few families 
would not be reasonable. Therefore the situation required that Rome 


Political liberty and the constitution 

be a democracy, but nevertheless it was not one. The power of the 
principal men had yet to be tempered, and the laws had yet to be 
inclined toward democracy. 

States are often more flourishing during the imperceptible shift from 
one constitution to another than they are under either constitution. At 
that time all the springs of the government are stretched; ail the citizens 
have claims; one is attacked or flattered; and there is a noble rivalry 
between those who defend the declining constitution and those who 
put forward the one that prevails. 


How the distribution of the three powers began to change 
after the expulsion of the kings 

Four things principally ran counter to the liberty of Rome. The 
patricians alone had obtained all the sacred, political, civil and military 
employments; an exorbitant power had been attached to the consulate; 
the people were subjected to outrages; finally, they had almost no 
influence left in the voting. The people corrected these four abuses. 

1 . They had it established that there would be magistracies to which 
plebeians could aspire, and they gradually obtained a place for them- 
selves in all of them except that of the Interrex. 

2. The consulate was broken up and formed into several magistra- 
cies. Praetors were created 30 who were given the power to judge on 
private suits; quaestors 31 were named in order to have public crimes 
judged; aediles were established to whom supervision of the police was 
given; also treasurers 32 were made who were to administer the public 
monies; finally, by the creation of censors, the consuls were removed 
from the part of the legislative power that regulates the mores of 
citizens and the immediate police of the various bodies of the state. The 
principal prerogatives that remained to the consuls were that they 
presided over the great assemblies of the people, 33 convened the 
senate, and commanded the armies. 

30 Livy, decade 1, bk. 6 [6.42.1 1]. 

Quaes tores parricidi : Magistrates to try parricides. Pomponius, Law 2, para. 23 [Corpus Juris 
Civilis, Digest 1 .2.23]; de origine juris et omnium magistratuum et successione prudentum. 

32 Plutarch \Vit.\, Publicola [12.2]. 

33 Comitiis centuriatis. 

1 73 

Part 2 

3. The sacred laws established tribunes who could, at any moment, 
check the enterprises of the patricians and who prevented not only 
particular wrongs but also general ones. 

Finally, the plebeians increased that influence in public decisions. 
The Roman people were divided in three ways: by centuries, by curiae, 
and by tribes; and when they voted, they were convened and formed in 
one of these three ways. 

In the first, the patricians, the principal men, the rich people, and the 
senate, groups that were nearly the same, had almost all the authority; 
in the second, they had less; in the third, still less. 

The division by centuries was a division based on the census and on 
means, rather than a division by persons. The whole of the people was 
divided into one hundred and ninety-three centuries, 34 each having 
one vote. The patricians and the principal men formed the first ninety- 
eight centuries; the rest of the citizens were spread over the other 
ninety-five. Therefore the patricians were the masters of the votes in 
this division. 

In the division by curiae, 35 the patricians did not have the same 
advantages. Yet they had some. The auspices had to be consulted, and 
the patricians were in control of them; no proposition could be made to 
the people that had not previously been brought to the senate and 
approved by a senatus-consult. But in the division by tribes, there was 
no question of auspices or of senatus-consult, and the patricians were 
not admitted. 

Now, the people kept on seeking to use the division by curiae for 
those assemblies that were customarily divided by centuries and the 
division by tribes for those assemblies that were done by curiae, which 
led to the transfer of public business from the hands of the patricians 
into those of the plebeians. 

Thus, when the plebeians had gained the right to judge patricians, 
beginning with the affair of Coriolanus, 36 the plebeians wanted to judge 
them assembled by tribes 37 and not by centuries; and when the new 
magistracies of tribunes and aediles, which favored the people, were 

^See on this, Livy, bk. 1 [1.43]; and Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 4 [4.16-22] and bk. 7 

35 Dion. Hal. [Ant . Rom.], bk. 9, p. 598 [9.41.2-4]. 

36 Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 7 [7.59.9-10]. 

37 Contrary to the former usage, as can be seen in Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 5, p. 320 


Political liberty and the constitution 

established , 38 the people obtained that they would be assembled by 
curiae to name them; and when their power was firm, they gained the 
naming of the tribunes and the aediles in an assembly by tribes . 39 

38 [Dion. Hal. ,Ant. Rom.] bk. 6, pp. 410 and 41 1 [6.89.1-2]. [On the aediles, see 6.90.] 
39 [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom.] bk. 9, p. 605 [9.43.4]. 


How , in the flourishing state of the republic, 

Rome suddenly lost its liberty 

In the heat of the disputes between the patricians and the plebeians, the 
latter asked for fixed laws to be given so that judgments would no longer 
be the result of a capricious will or an arbitrary power. After much 
resistance, the senate acquiesced. Decemvirs were named to compose 
these laws. It was believed that they had to be granted great power 
because they had to give laws to parties that were almost incompatible. 
The naming of all the magistrates was suspended, and in the comitia 
they were elected sole administrators of the republic. They were 
invested with both the power of the consuls and the power of the 
tribunes. The former gave them the right to convene the senate; the 
latter, that of convening the people; but they convoked neither the 
senate nor the people. Ten men alone in the republic had all the 
legislative power, all the executive power, all the power of judgment. 
Rome saw itself subject to a tyranny as cruel as that of Tarquin. When 
Tarquin exercised his oppressive measures, Rome was indignant at the 
power he had usurped; when the decemvirs exercised theirs, it was 
astonished by the power it had given away. 

But what was this tyrannical system, produced by people who had 
gained political and military power only from their knowledge of civil 
business, and who in the circumstances of that time needed the 
citizens’ cowardice inside so that they would let themselves be gov- 
erned, and the citizens’ courage outside as a defense? 

The spectacle of the death of Virginia, sacrificed by her father to 
modesty and to liberty, made the power of the decemvirs evaporate. 
Each man was free because each one was offended; everyone became a 
citizen because everyone was a father. The senate and the people 


' £art 2 

returned to a liberty that had been entrusted to ridiculous tyrants. 

The Roman people, more than any other, were moved by spectacles. 
That of the bloody body of Lucretia brought royalty to an end. The 
debtor who appeared covered with sores in the square changed the 
form of the republic. The sight of Virginia drove out the decemvirs. For 
Manlius to be condemned, the people had to be put where they could 
not see the Capitol. The bloody robe of Caesar returned Rome to 


On legislative power in the Roman republic 

There were no rights to dispute under the decemvirs, but when liberty 
returned, jealousies could be seen anew; so long as some privileges 
remained to the patricians, the plebeians took them away. 

Little ill would have been done if the plebeians had been satisfied to 
deprive the patricians of the prerogatives instead of also offending 
them in their status as citizens.' - When the people were assembled by 
curiae or by centuries, they were composed of senators, patricians and 
plebeians. In the disputation, the plebeians won the point 40 that they 
alone, without the patricians or the senate, could make laws, which 
were called plebiscites, and the comitia where they were made was 
called the comitia by tribes. Thus, there were cases in which the 
patricians 41 had no part in legislative power 42 and in which they were 
subject to the legislative power of another body of the state. It was a 
frenzy of liberty. The people, in order to establish democracy, ran 
counter to the very principles of democracy. It seemed that such an 
exorbitant power should have reduced the authority of the senate to 

^Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. u,p. 725 [11.45]. 

41 By the sacred laws, the plebeians could hold plebiscites alone and without admitting the 
patricians to their assembly. Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 6, p. 410 [6.89} and bk. 7, p. 430 

42 By the law made after the expulsion of the decemvirs, patricians were made subject to 
plebiscites though they had no voice in them. Livy, bk. 3 [3.55.3]; and Dion. Hal. [Ant. 
Rom.], bk. 1 1, p. 775 [1 1 .45]. And this law was confirmed by that of Publius Philo, dictator 
in the Roman year 416 [338(339) b.c.]. Livy, bk. 8 [8.12.14-16]. 

e qualite de citoyen. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

nothing; but Rome had admirable institutions. These were principally 
two: in the one, the legislative power of the people was regulated; in the 
other, it was limited. 

Every five years the censors formed and created the body of the 
people, as the consuls had formerly done ; 43 they exercised legislation 
even over the body that had legislative power. “Tiberius Gracchus, 
censor,” says Cicero, “transferred the freedmen to the tribes of the 
town, not by the force of his eloquence, but by a word and by a gesture, 
and if he had not, we would no longer have this republic, which we 
barely sustain today.”/ 

On the other hand, the senate had the power to remove the republic 
from the hands of the people, so to speak, by creating a dictator before 
whom the sovereign bowed and the most popular laws remained 
silent . 44 

43 In the Roman year 312 [442 b.c.], the consuls still took the census, as appears in Dion. 
Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 11 [11.63.2]. 

44 Such as those that permitted the ordinances of every magistrate to be appealed to the 

^Cicero, lie oratore 1.9.38. 


On executive power in the same republic 

If the people were jealous of their legislative power, they were less so of 
their executive power. They left it almost entirely to the senate and the 
consuls, and they reserved to themselves scarcely more than the right to 
elect magistrates and to confirm the acts of the senate and of the 

Rome, whose passion was to command, whose ambition was to 
subject everything, who had always usurped, who usurped still, con- 
tinually pursued great matters of public business; its enemies plotted 
against it, or it plotted against them. 

As it was obliged to conduct itself, on the one hand, with heroic 
courage and, on the other hand, with consummate wisdom, the state of 
things required that the senate direct public business. The people 
quarreled with the senate over all the branches of legislative power, 


Part 2 

because they were jealous of their liberty; they did not quarrel with it 
over the branches of executive power, because they were jealous of 
their glory. 

The part played by the senate in executive power was so great that 
Polybius 45 says all foreigners thought that Rome was an aristocracy. 
The senate disbursed the public funds and farmed out the revenues; it 
was the arbiter for suits of the allies; it decided on war and peace and 
directed the consuls in this regard; it fixed the number of Roman and 
allied troops, distributed the provinces and the armies to the consuls or 
the praetors, and, when their year of command expired, it could give 
them to a successor; it decreed triumphs; it received and sent embas- 
sies; it named kings, rewarded them, punished them, judged them, and 
gave or made them lose the title of allies of the Roman people. 

The consuls levied the troops that they were to lead to war; they 
commanded the armies on land or on sea, they marshaled the allies; in 
the provinces they had all the power of the republic; they made peace 
with vanquished peoples, and imposed conditions on them or referred 
them to the senate. 

In early times, when the people had some part in the business of war 
and peace, they exercised their legislative power rather than their 
executive power. They scarcely did more than confirm what the kings 
had done and what the consuls or the senate had done after them. The 
people were so far from being the arbiters of war that we see that the 
consuls or the senate often made war in spite of the opposition of their 
tribunes. But in the drunkenness of their prosperity, they increased 
their executive power/ Thus , 46 they themselves created tribunes in the 
legions who had until then been named by the generals, and some time 
before the first Punic War they ruled that they alone would have the 
right to declare war . 47 

45 [Polybius, Historiae] bk. 6 [6.13.8-9]. 

^In the Roman year 444 [310 B.C.], Livy, bk. 9 [9.30.3]. When the war against Perseus 
appeared perilous, a senatus-consult ordained that this law would be suspended, and the 
people consented to it. Livy, decade 5, bk. 2 [42.31.5]. 

47 They wrested it from the senate, says Johann Freinsheim [Supplementorum Livianorum], 
decade 2, bk. 6 [16.23]. 

*This sentence appears in earlier editions, but not in the Masson edition. We have 
included it here as it seems to be required for the sense of the paragraph. 


Political liberty and the constitution 


On the power of judging in the Roman government 

The power of judging was given to the people, to the senate, to the 
magistrates, and to certain judges. Its distribution must be seen. I begin 
with matters of civil business. 

After the kings, the consuls judged, 48 and the praetors judged after 
the consuls. Servius Tullius had divested himself of judging civil suits; 
the consuls did not judge them either except in very rare cases 49 that 
were called, for this reason, extraordinary , 50 They were satisfied to 
name the judges and to form the tribunals that were to judge. It seems, 
according to the discourse of Appius Claudius, in Dionysius of 
Halicarnassus, 51 that as early as the Roman year 259 [495 b.c.] this 
was regarded as an established custom among the Romans, and tracing 
it back to Servius Tullius is not going very far back. 

Each year, the praetor made a list 52 or table of those he chose to 
perform the function of judges during the year of his magistracy. A 
number sufficient for each suit was taken from it. The English practice 
is quite similar. And, what was very favorable to liberty 53 is that the 
praetor selected the judges with the consent of both parties. 54 That 
many objections to judges may be made in England today amounts to 
approximately this usage. 

These judges decided only questions of fact; 55 for example, if a sum 
had been paid or not, if an action had been committed or not. But 

48 One cannot doubt that before the creation of the praetors, the consuls had had civil 
judgments. See Livy, decade i, bk. 2, p. 19 [2. 1.7-8]; Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 10, p. 
627 [10.1.3], and bk. 10, p. 645 {10.19.1]. 

49 The tribunes often judged alone; nothing made them more odious. Dion. Hal. [Ant. 
Rom.], bk. 11, p. 709 [1 1. 39.1]. 

50 Judicia extraordinaria : a legal investigation not following the normal procedure. See 
Institutes, bk. 4 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Institutes 4.15.8; de interdict is], 

51 [Dion. Hal .,Ant. Rom.] bk. 6, p. 360 [6.24.1]. 

52 Album judicum : a list of judges chosen by the quaestors. 

53 In Pro Cluentio [43 .120], Cicero says, “Our ancestors did not want a man upon whom the 
parties had not agreed to be able to be a judge of the reputation of a citizen or of the 
slightest pecuniary matter.” 

54 In the fragments of the Servilian law, the Cornelian law, and others, see the way in which 
these laws provided the judges in the crimes they proposed to punish. The judges were 
often selected by choice, sometimes by lot, or, finally, by lot and choice together. 

35 Seneca, De beneficiis, bk. 3, chap. 7 in fine [3.7.5— 7]. 


Part 2 

because questions of right 56 required a certain ability, these were taken 
to the tribunal of the centumvirs . 57 

The kings kept for themselves the judgment of criminal suits, and 
the consuls succeeded them in this. As a consequence of this authority 
the consul Brutus had his children put to death as well as all who had 
conspired on behalf of the Tarquins. This power was exorbitant. The 
consuls, who already held military power, carried its exercise even into 
the public business of the town, and their proceedings, devoid of the 
forms of justice, were violent actions rather than judgments. 

This brought about the Valerian law, which permitted an appeal to 
the people of all the ordinances of the consuls that might imperil the life 
of a citizen. The consuls could no longer pronounce a capital penalty 
against a Roman citizen except with the will of the people . 58 

One sees in the first conspiracy to reinstate the Tarquins that the 
consul Brutus judges the guilty; in the second, the senate and the 
comitia are convened to judge . 59 

The laws called sacred gave the plebeians the tribunes, who formed a 
body that at first made immense claims. One does not know which was 
greater, the cowardly effrontery of the plebeians in asking or the 
complaisance and readiness of the senate in acquiescing. The Valerian 
law had permitted appeals to the people, that is, to the people 
composed of senators, patricians, and plebeians. The plebeians 
established that appeals would be brought before them. Soon the 
question was raised as to whether the plebeians could judge a patrician; 
this was the subject of a debate that arose with the affair of Coriolanus 
and ended with it. Coriolanus, accused by the tribunes before the 
people, maintained, contrary to the spirit of the Valerian law, that, 
being a patrician, he could be judged only by the consuls; the plebeians, 
contrary to the spirit of the same law, claimed that he was to be judged 
by them alone, and they judged him. 

The Law of the Twelve Tables modified the preceding. It ordered 
that one could not decide upon the life of a citizen except in the great 

56 See Quintilian [ Institutio oratorio], bk. 4, p. 54, Paris edn. 1541 [4.2.5). 

57 Law 2, para. 24 [Corpus Juris Chilis, Digest 1 .2.24); de origine juris et omnium magistratuum 
et successione prudentum. Magistrates called decemvirs presided at the judgment, and the 
entire proceeding was under the direction of a praetor. 

58 “Thus it was not permissible for the consuls to pronounce the capital penalty against a 
Roman citizen without the command of the Roman people” [L.J. See Pomponius, Law 2, 
para, 16 [Corpus Juris Chilis, Digest 1.2.23]; & origine juris et omnium magistratuum et 
successione prudentum. 

59 Dion. Haf. [Ant. Rom.\, bk. 5, p. 322 [5.10.7]. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

estates of the people . 60 Thus, the body of plebeians, or what is the same 
thing, the comitia by tribes, no longer judged any but the crimes whose 
penalty was only a pecuniary fine. There had to be a law to inflict a 
capital penalty; to condemn to a pecuniary penalty, there had only to be 
a plebiscite. 

This provision of the Law of the Twelve Tables was very wise. It led 
to forming an admirable conciliation between the body of the plebeians 
and the senate. For, as the competence of each to judge depended on 
the magnitude of the penalty and the nature of the crime, they had to 
join together. 

The Valerian law removed all that remained in Rome of that 
government which was related to the Greek kings of heroic times. The 
consuls found themselves without the power to punish crimes. 
Although all crimes are public, one must distinguish between those of 
more interest to the citizens among themselves and those of more 
interest to the state in its relation with a citizen. The first crimes are 
called private, the second are public. The people themselves judged 
public crimes, and in regard to private ones, they named through a 
particular commission a quaestor to pursue each crime. The people 
often chose one of the magistrates, but sometimes they chose a private 
man. He was called a questor of parricide. This is mentioned in the Law 
of the Twelve Tables . 61 

The questor named the judge of the question, as he was called, who 
picked the judges by lot, formed the tribunal, and presided under him 
at the judgment . 62 

It is well to observe here the part the senate took in naming the 
questor, so that one may see how the powers were balanced in this 
regard. Sometimes the senate had a dictator elected to perform the 
function of the questor ; 63 sometimes it ordered the people to be 
convoked by a tribune so that they would name a questor ; 64 finally, the 

60 The comitia by centuries. Thus Manlius Capitolinus was judged in these comitia. Livy, 
decade i, bk. 6, p. 68 [6.20.10]. 

61 So Pomponius says in Law 2, Digest [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 1 .2.23]; de origine juris et 
omnium magistratuum et successione prudentum. [See bk. 1 1, n. 31.) 

62 See a fragment of Ulpian, who reports of another one in the Cornelian law; it is found in 
the Mosaicarum et Romanorum legum collatio, tit. 1 [1.1.3; 2 > 544, FIRA\\ de sicariis et 

62 That occurred chiefly in the crimes committed in Italy, where the senate had a principal 
inspection. See Livy, decade 1, bk. 9 [9.26.6-19], on the conspiracies of Capua. 

64 It was thus in the prosecution resulting from the death of Posthumius, in the Roman year 
340 [414 B.c.]. See Livy [4.50.3-5]. 


Part 2 

people sometimes named a magistrate to report to the senate about a 
certain crime and to ask it to name a questor, as seen in the judgment of 
Lucius Scipio 65 in Livy. 66 

In the Roman year 604 [150 b.c.], some of these commissions were 
made permanent. 67 One gradually divided all criminal matters into 
various parts, which were called perpetual questions. Various praetors 
were created, and each was given one of these questions. The praetors 
were given the power to judge the crimes which fell to them for a year, 
and after that they went to govern their provinces. 

In Carthage, the senate of the One Hundred was composed of 
judges serving for life. 68 But in Rome the praetors served for one year 
and the judges served even less than a year because they were chosen 
for each suit. One has seen, in chapter 6 of this Book, how much this 
provision was favorable to liberty in certain governments. 

Judges were drawn from the order of senators until the times of the 
Gracchi. Tiberius Gracchus ordered that they be drawn from that of 
knights; this was such a considerable change that the tribune boasted of 
having by a single rogation cut the sinews of the senatorial order. 

It must be observed that the three powers may be well distributed in 
relation to the liberty of the constitution, though they are not so well 
distributed in their relation with the liberty of the citizen. In Rome, as 
the people had the greater part of the legislative power, part of the 
executive power, and part of the power of judging, they were a great 
power that had to be counter- balanced by another. The senate 
certainly had part of the executive power; it had some branch of the 
legislative power, 69 but this was not enough to counter-balance the 
people. It had to have part of the power of judging, and it had a part 
when judges were chosen from among the senators. When the Gracchi 
deprived the senators of the power of judging, 70 the senate could no 
longer stand up to the people. Therefore, they ran counter to the liberty 
of the constitution in order to favor the liberty of the citizen, but the 
latter was lost along with the former. 

65 This judgment was rendered in the Roman year 567 [187 b.c.]. 

“[Livy] bk. 8 [38.54I. 

67 Cicero, Brutus [27.106]. 

“This is proven by Livy, bk. 43 [33.46.7], who says that Hannibal made the magistracy 

69 The senatus consults were in force for a year, though they were not confirmed by the 
people. Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 9, p. 595 [9.37.2], and bk. 11, p. 735 [1 1.60.5]. 

70 In the year 630 [124 b.c.]. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

Infinite ills resulted. The constitution was changed at a time when, in 
the heat of civil discords, there was scarcely a constitution. The knights 
were no longer the middle order uniting the people and the senate, and 
the chain of the constitution was broken. 

There were also some particular reasons that should have kept 
judging from being transfered to the knights. The Roman constitution 
was founded on the principle that those who had enough goods to be 
responsible to the republic for their conduct should be soldiers. The 
knights, as the richest men, formed the cavalry of the legions. When 
their status was raised, they refused to serve any longer in this guard; 
another cavalry had to be levied; Marius admitted all sorts of people 
into the legions, and the republic was lost . 71 

In addition, the knights were the tax-collectors of the republic; they 
were rapacious, they heaped misfortune on misfortune and made 
public needs rise from public needs. Far from giving such people the 
power of judging, they should continually have been watched by 
judges. It must be said in praise of the old French laws that the 
stipulations made for the men of public business were made with the 
distrust one has for enemies. In Rome, when judgments were trans- 
ferred to the tax-collectors, virtue, police, laws, magistracy, and 
magistrates were no longer. 

An artless picture of this is found in fragments of Diodorus of Sicily 
and of Dio. Diodorus 72 says, “Mutius Scaevola wanted to call back the 
old mores and live from his own means with frugality and integrity. For 
his predecessors, in league with the tax-collectors who were at that time 
judging in Rome, had filled the province with all sorts of crimes. But 
Scaevola meted out justice to the publicans and put into prison those 
who had been sending others there.” 

Dio tells us 73 that Publius Rutilius, his lieutenant, who was no less 
odious to the knights, was accused on his return of having accepted 
some presents and was condemned to pay a fine. He surrendered his 
goods at once. His innocence was manifest, for he was found to have 
many fewer goods than he was accused of having stolen and he showed 
the titles to the property; he would no longer remain in the town with 
such people. 

71 Capite censos plerosque : most from the poorest citizens. Sallust, Jurgurtha [86.2]. 

72 Fragment of this author [Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica), bk. 36 [37.5], in the 
collection of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Extracts of Virtues and Vices. 

73 Fragment of [Cass. Dio] Historia Romana [28.97] drawn from the Extracts of Virtues and 


Part 2 

Diodorus says further , 74 “The Italians bought troops of slaves in 
Sicily to plow their fields and care for their herds; they refused them 
food. These unfortunate men were obliged to rob on the highways, 
armed with lances and clubs, covered with the skins of beasts and 
accompanied by big dogs. The whole province was ravaged, and the 
people of that country could properly call their own only the things 
within the town walls. There was neither proconsul nor praetor who 
could or would oppose this disorder or who would dare punish these 
slaves, because they belonged to the knights who were the judges in 
Rome .” 75 This was one of the causes of the Slave War. I shall say only 
one word; a profession that neither has nor can have any object but 
gain, a profession that was always asking and of whom nothing was 
asked, an insidious and inexorable profession which impoverished 
wealth and even poverty, should not have been giving judgments in 

74 Fragment of [Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca kistorica ] bk. 34 [34/35-2.32, 29-30), in the 
Extracts of Virtues and Vices. 

75 “They [the slaves] belonged to the ones who did the judging in Rome, and it was from 
among the Equestrian order that lots were cast to choose judges on the cases involving 
praetors and proconsuls, who, after having administered a province, were called to trial” 
[L.]. [Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca kistorica 34/35.2.32, 30, 31 (3).] 


On the government of the Roman provinces 

The three powers were distributed in the town in this way, but it was far 
from being the same in the provinces. Liberty was at the center and 
tyranny at the extremities. 

At the time when Rome dominated only Italy, the peoples were 
governed as confederates; the laws of each republic were followed. But, 
when it carried its conquests further, when the senate had no direct 
view of the provinces, when the magistrates in Rome could no longer 
govern the empire, then praetors and proconsuls had to be sent. From 
then on, there was no longer harmony between the three powers. The 
power of those who were sent brought together that of all the Roman 
magistrates (what am I saying?):* even that of the senate, even that of 

* Translator’s parentheses. 


Political liberty and the constitution 

the people ! 76 These were despotic magistrates, quite suitable for the 
far-distant places to which they were sent. They exercised the three 
powers; they were, if I dare use this term, the pashas of the republic. 

We have said elsewhere 77 that by the nature of things in a republic 
the same citizens had civil and military employments. The result is that 
a conquering republic can scarcely extend its government and control 
the conquered state in accordance with the form of its constitution. 
Indeed, since the magistrate it sends to govern has the executive power 
over both civil and military business, he must also have legislative 
power, for who else would make the laws? He must also have the power 
of judging, for who would judge independently of him? Therefore, the 
governor sent by a republic must have the three powers, as he had in the 
Roman provinces. 

A monarchy can more easily extend its government, because some of 
the officers it sends to the provinces have executive power in matters of 
civil business and others, executive power in matters of military 
business, which does not bring about despotism. 

That a Roman citizen could be judged only by the people was a 
privilege of great consequence for him. Otherwise he would have been 
subjected to the arbitrary power of a proconsul or a propraetor in the 
provinces. The town did not feel the tyranny, which was exercised only 
over the subject nations. 

Thus, in the Roman world, as in Lacedaemonia, those who were free 
were exceedingly free, and those who were slaves were exceedingly 

While the citizens paid taxes, they were levied with a very great 
fairness. The levy was in accord with the establishment of Servius 
Tullius, who had distributed all the citizens into six classes in the order 
of their wealth and had set their share of the impost in proportion to the 
share each one had in the government. The result was that some 
tolerated the high tax because of their great influence, and that others 
consoled themselves for their small influence with their low tax. 

There was another remarkable thing: it is that, since the division of 
Servius Tullius by classes was the fundamental principle of the 
constitution, so to speak, it happened that fairness in levying taxes 
derived from the fundamental principle of this government and could 
be removed only when it was. 

76 They gave their edicts upon entering the provinces. 

77 Above, in bk. 5, chap. 19. See also bks. 2 , 3, 4, and 5. 

Part 2 

But while Rome paid taxes painlessly or paid none at all , 78 the 
provinces were ravaged by the knights, who were the tax-collectors for 
the republic. We have spoken of their harassments, and all history is 
full of them. 

“All Asia awaits me as its liberator,” said Mithridates , 79 “the pillages 
of the pronconsuls , 80 the exactions' of the men of public business/ and 
the calumny of their judgments 81 have aroused such great hatred for 
the Romans.” 

This is why the force of the provinces added nothing to the force of 
the republic and, on the contrary, only weakened it. This is why the 
provinces regarded the loss of liberty in Rome as the period of the 
establishment of their own. 

78 After the conquest of Macedonia, the taxing ceased in Rome. 

79 Harangue taken from Trogus Pompeius and related by Justin [ Epitoma historiarum 
Philippicarum ], bk. 38 [38.7.8]. 

80 See [Cicero] The Orations against Verres [the entire case], 

81 It is known that it was the tribunal of Varus that made the Germans rebel [see bk. 19, n. 1 ]. 

'executions in text. 

igens d’affaires are not strictly “businessmen” here. Affaires usually means “public 


End of this book 

I should like to seek out in all the moderate governments we know the 
distribution of the three powers and calculate thereupon the degrees of 
liberty each one of them can enjoy. But one must not always so exhaust 
a subject that one leaves nothing for the reader to do. It is not a question 
of making him read but of making him think. 


sk ife. jfe jfe jfe afe. afe ^ dc. ^jfo. jfe ^fe jfe *fe jfe. dk, dk* dfo> dc. dc. dc* ^fe dc. ^fe. 

00999 9 99 99 99999999999999999999 

BOOK 12 

On the laws that form 
political liberty in relation 
to the citizen 


The idea of this book 

It is not enough to treat political liberty in its relation to the constitu- 
tion; it must be shown in its relation to the citizen. 

I have said that, in the former instance, liberty is formed by a certain 
distribution of the three powers, but in the latter it must be considered 
with a different idea in view. It consists in security or in one’s opinion of 
one’s security. 

It can happen that the constitution is free and that the citizen is not. 
The citizen can be free and the constitution not. In these instances, the 
constitution will be free by right and not in fact; the citizen will be free 
in fact and not by right. 

Only the disposition of the laws, and especially of the fundamental 
laws, forms liberty in its relation to the constitution. But, in the relation 
to the citizen, mores, manners, and received examples can give rise to it 
and certain civil laws can favor it, as we shall see in the present book. 

Further, as in most states liberty is more hampered, countered, or 
beaten down than is required by their constitutions, it is well to speak of 
the particular laws that, in each constitution, can aid or run counter to 
the principle of the liberty of which each government can admit. 


Part 2 


On the liberty of the citizen 

Philosophical liberty consists in the exercise of one’s will or, at least (if 
all systems must be mentioned), in one’s opinion that one exerts one’s 
will. Political liberty consists in security or, at least, in the opinion one 
has of one’s security. 

This security is never more attacked than by public or private 
accusations. Therefore, the citizen’s liberty depends principally on the 
goodness of the criminal laws. 

Criminal laws were not perfected all at once. In the very places one 
most sought liberty, one did not always find it. Aristotle' tells us that at 
Cumae, the accuser’s relatives could be witnesses. Under the Roman 
kings, the law was so imperfect that Servius Tullius pronounced 
sentence against the children of Ancus Martius, accused of having 
assassinated his father-in-law, the king . 2 Under the first kings of the 
Franks, Clotaire made a law 3 that an accused man could not be 
condemned without being heard, which proves that there was an 
opposite practice in some particular case or among some barbarian 
people. It was Charondas who introduced judgments against false 
testimonies . 4 When the innocence of the citizens is not secure, neither 
is liberty. 

The knowledge already acquired in some countries and yet to be 
acquired in others, concerning the surest rules one can observe in 
criminal judgments, is of more concern to mankind than anything else 
in the world. 

Liberty can be founded only on the practice of this knowledge, and in 
a state that had the best possible laws in regard to it, a man against 
whom proceedings had been brought and who was to be hung the next 
day would be freer than is a pasha in Turkey. 

'[Aristotle] Pol., bk. 2 [126931-126933]. 

2 Tarquinius Priscus. See Dion. Hal. \Ant. Rom.], bk. 4 [4.5.3]. 

3 In the year 560 [ CRF 8.3]. 

4 Aristotle, Pol., bk. 2, chap. 12 [i247b5-8]. He gave his laws at Thurium in the 84th 
Olympiad (444 b.c.]. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

chapter 3 

Continuation of the same subject 

The laws that send a man to his death on the deposition of a single 
witness are fatal to liberty. Reason requires two, because a witness who 
affirms and an accused who denies produce a division, and there must 
be a third for a decision. 

The Greeks 5 and the Romans 6 required one additional voice to 
condemn. Our French laws require two. The Greeks claimed that their 
usage had been established by the gods , 7 but ours was. 

5 See [Aelius] Aristides, Oratio inMinervam [Athena, 37(2). 17]. 

6 Dion. Hal. \Ant. Rom.\., bk. 7 [7.64.6], on the judgment of Coriolanus. 

7 Minervae calculus', vote of Minerva. 


That liberty is favored by the nature of penalties, 
and by their proportion 

It is the triumph of liberty when criminal laws draw each penalty from 
the particular nature of the crime. All arbitrariness ends; the penalty 
does not ensue from the legislator’s capriciousness but from the nature 
of the thing, and man does not do violence to man. 

There are four sorts of crimes. Those of the first kind run counter to 
religion; those of the second, to mores; those of the third, to tranquility; 
those of the fourth, to the security of the citizens. The penalties 
inflicted should derive from the nature of each of these kinds. 

I include in the class of crimes concerning religion only those that 
attack it directly, such as all cases of simple sacrilege. For crimes of 
disturbing the exercise of religion are of the nature of those that run 
counter to the tranquility or the security of the citizens and should be 
shifted to these classes. 

In order for the penalty against simple sacrilege to be drawn from the 
nature 8 of the thing, it should consist in the deprivation of all the 

8 St. Louis made such exaggerated laws against those who swore that the Pope felt obliged 
to caution him about it. This prince moderated his zeal and softened his laws. See his 


advantages given by religion: expulsion from the temples; deprivation 
of the society of the faithful for a time or forever; shunning the presence 
of the sacrilegious; execration, detestation, and exorcism. 

In the things that disturb the tranquility or security of the state, 
hidden actions are a concern" of human justice. But in those that 
wound the divinity, where there is no public action, there is no criminal 
matter; it is all between the man and god who knows the measure and 
the time of his vengeance. For if the magistrate, confusing things, even 
searches out hidden sacrilege, he brings an inquisition to a kind of 
action where it is not necessary; he destroys the liberty of citizens by 
arming against them the zeal of both timid and brash consciences. 

The ill came from the idea that the divinity must be avenged. But one 
must make divinity honored, and one must never avenge it. Indeed, if 
one were guided by the latter idea, where would punishments end? If 
men’s laws are to avenge an infinite being, they will be ruled by his 
infinity and not by the weakness, ignorance, and caprice of human 

An historian of Provence 9 reports a fact that paints very clearly for us 
what this idea of avenging the divinity can produce in weak spirits. A 
Jew, accused of having blasphemed the Holy Virgin, was condemned to 
be flayed. Masked knights with knives in their hands mounted the 
scaffold and drove away the executioner in order to avenge the honor of 
the Holy Virgin themselves ... I certainly do not want to anticipate the 
reader’s reflections. 

The second class is of crimes against the mores: these are the 
violation of public or individual continence, that is, of the police 
concerning how one should enjoy the pleasures associated with the use 
of one’s senses and with corporal union. The penalties for these crimes 
should also be drawn from the nature of the thing. Deprivation of the 
advantages that society has attached to the purity of mores, fines, 
shame, the constraint to hide oneself, public infamy, and expulsion 
from the town and from society; finally, all the penalties within the 
correctional jurisdiction suffice to repress the temerity of the two sexes. 

Ordinances. [Recueil general des anciennes lois franqaises. Capetiens, 216.2; see also 218.1; 1, 

9 Father Bougerel. 

“ ressort . We usually translate ressort as “spring.” See also note f , bk. 19. 

Political liberty and the citizen 

Indeed, these things are founded less on wickedness than on forgetting 
or despising oneself. 

Here it is a question only of crimes that involve mores alone, not of 
those that also run counter to public security, such as kidnapping and 
rape, which are of the fourth kind. 

The crimes of the third class are those that run counter to the 
citizens’ tranquility, and the penalties for them should be drawn from 
the nature of the thing and relate to that tranquility, such as depriva- 
tion, exile, corrections, and other penalties that restore men’s troubled 
spirits and return them to the established order. 

I restrict crimes against tranquility to the things that are a simple 
breach of police; the ones that, while disturbing tranquility, attack 
security at the same time, should be put in the fourth class. 

The penalties for these last crimes are what are called punishments/ 
They are a kind of retaliation, which causes the society to refuse to give 
security to a citizen who has deprived or has wanted to deprive another 
of it. This penalty is derived from the nature of the thing and is drawn 
from reason and from the sources of good and evil. A citizen deserves 
death when he has violated security so far as to take or to attempt to take 
a life. The death penalty is the remedy, as it were, for a sick society. 
When one violates security with respect to goods there can be reasons 
for the penalty to be capital; but it would perhaps be preferable, and it 
would be more natural, if the penalty for crimes committed against the 
security of goods were punished by the loss of goods. And that ought to 
be so, if fortunes were common or equal; but as those who have no 
goods more readily attack the goods of others, the corporal penalty has 
had to replace the pecuniary penalty. 

All that I say is drawn from nature and is quite favorable to the 
citizen’s liberty. 

b petnes is translated “penalties,” and supplier, “punishments.” 

Part 2 


On certain accusations in particular need of 
moderation and prudence 

Important maxim: one must be very circumspect in the pursuit of magic 
and of heresy. Accusation of these two crimes can offend liberty in the 
extreme and be the source of infinite tyrannies if the legislator does not 
know how to limit it. For, as it does not bear directly on the actions of a 
citizen, but rather on the idea one has of his character, the accusation 
becomes dangerous in proportion to the people’s ignorance, and from 
that time, a citizen is always in danger because the best conduct in the 
world, the purest morality, and the practice of all one’s duties do not 
guarantee one from being suspected of these crimes. 

Under Manuel Comnenus, the protestator 10 was accused of conspir- 
ing against the emperor and of using to this end certain secrets that 
made men invisible. It is said, in the Life of this emperor , 11 that Aaron 
was caught reading a book of Solomon, and that by reading it legions of 
demons would appear. Now, by supposing a power in magic that can 
arm hell and by starting from this, he whom one calls a magician is 
considered the man in the world most likely to disturb and overthrow 
society, and one is drawn to punish him immeasurably. 

Indignation grows when one includes in magic the power to destroy 
religion. The history of Constantinople 12 tells us that, when a bishop 
had the revelation that a miracle had ceased because of the magic of a 
certain individual, that person and his son were condemned to death. 
On how many prodigious things did this crime not depend? That it 
should not be rare for there to be revelations; that this bishop had had 
one; that it was true; that there had been a miracle; that this miracle had 
ceased; that there is magic; that magic can overturn religion; that this 
individual was a magician; finally, that he had done this act of magic. 

The emperor Theodore Lascaris attributed his illness to magic. 
Those who were accused of it had no other recourse but to handle a hot 
iron without burning themselves. It would have been a good thing, 

l0 Nicetas Acominatus [Historia], DeManuele Commeno, bk. 4 [4.7; pp. 146-147; 1975 edn; 
190-192, Bekker]. 

"Nicetas Acominatus [Historia], De Manuele Commeno, bk. 4 [4.7; pp. 146-147; 1975 edn.; 
190-192, Bekker], 

l2 [Simocattaj Theophylactus, Historiarum , chap. 1 1 [1.11; pp. 53-57, Bekker edn]. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

among these Greeks, to be a magician in order to vindicate oneself of 
the accusation of magic. Such was the excess of their ignorance that, to 
the most dubious crime in the world, they joined the most dubious 

Under the reign of Philip the Tall, the Jews were run out of France, 
having been accused of allowing lepers to pollute the wells. This absurd 
accusation certainly should cast doubt on all accusations founded on 
public hatred. 

I have not said here that heresy must not be punished; I say that one 
must be very circumspect in punishing it. 


On the crime against nature 

Please god that I may not diminish the horror that one has for a crime 
that religion, morality, and policy condemn in turn. It would have to be 
proscribed if it did no more than give to one sex the weaknesses of the 
other and prepare for an infamous old age by a shameful youth. What I 
shall say will leave it all of its stigma and will bear only on the tyranny 
that can take an unfair advantage of even the horror in which it should 
be held. 

As it is in the nature of this crime to be hidden, legislators have often 
punished it on the deposition of a child. This opened wide the door to 
calumny. “Justinian,” says Procopius , 13 “published a law against this 
crime; he made inquiries about those who were guilty of it, not only 
after the law was made but before. The deposition of a witness, 
sometimes a child, sometimes a slave, sufficed, especially against the 
rich and those who were of the faction of the Greens .” 

It is singular that among ourselves three crimes, magic, heresy, and 
the crime against nature, of which it can be proved that the first does 
not exist, that the second is susceptible to infinite distinctions, inter- 
pretations and limitations, and that the third is often hidden, were all 
three punished by the penalty of burning. 

I shall assert that the crime against nature will not make much 
progress in a society unless the people are also inclined to it by some 

13 [Procopius] Anecdota sive Historia arcana [ 19. 1 1 ]. 


Part 2 

custom, as among the Greeks, where the young people performed all 
their exercises naked, as among ourselves where education at home is 
no longer the usage, as among the Asians where some individuals have 
a large number of wives whom they scorn while others can have none. 
Do not clear the way for this crime, let it be proscribed by an exact 
police, as are all the violations of mores, and one will immediately see 
nature either defend her rights or take them back. Gentle, pleasing, 
charming, nature has scattered pleasures with a liberal hand; and by 
overwhelming us with delights, she prepares us with our children 
through whom we are bom again, as it were, for satisfactions greater 
even than those delights. 


On the crime of high treason 

The laws of China decide that whoever lacks respect for the emperor 
should be punished by death. As they do not define what lack of respect 
is, anything can furnish a pretext for taking the life of whomever one 
wants and for exterminating whatever family one wants. 

Two persons charged with writing the court gazette noted some 
circumstances about a deed which were found not to be true, and, as 
lying in a court gazette was said to show lack of respect for the court, 
they were put to death . 14 When a prince of the blood inadvertently 
placed a note on a day-book signed with the red paintbrush of the 
emperor, it was decided that he had shown a lack of respect for the 
emperor, which brought against this family one of the most terrible 
persecutions of which history has ever spoken. ls 

Vagueness in the crime of high treason is enough to make govern- 
ment degenerate into despotism. I shall treat the subject at length in the 
Book “On the composition of the laws/* 

,4 Father (Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de I’Empire de la Chine , “De la forme du 
gouvemement”], vol. i, p. 43 [2.50 H; 2.43 P; 2.71 L). 

15 Letters of Father Parennin in Lettres edifiantes et curieuses [Peking, September 26,i727;i9, 
156-158; 1729 edn]. 

f Book 29. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

chapter 8 

On the wrong application of the name of crime 
of sacrilege and high treason 

It is also a violent abuse to give the name of crime of high treason to an 
action which is not one. A law of the emperors 16 pursued as sacrilegious 
those who called the prince’s judgment into question and doubted the 
merit of those he had chosen for certain employments . 17 The cabinet 
and the favorites established this crime. Another law declared that 
those who made an attempt on the prince’s ministers and officers were 
guilty of the crime of treason, as if they had made an attempt on the 
prince himself . 18 We owe this law to two princes 19 whose weakness is 
famous in history, two princes who were led by their ministers as flocks 
are led by shepherds, two princes, slaves in the palace, children in the 
council, strangers in the armies, who preserved the empire only 
because they gave it away every day. Several of these favorites con- 
spired against their emperors. They did more: they conspired against 
the empire, they summoned the barbarians, and when one wanted to 
check them, the state was so weak that it had to violate their law and run 
the risk of committing the crime of treason in order to punish them. 

Yet the Judge- Advocate for M. de Cinq-Mars 20 relied upon this law 
when, wanting to prove the latter guilty of the crime of treason for 
attempting to dismiss Cardinal Richelieu from matters of public 
business, he said, “By the constitutions of the emperors the crime 
touching the person of the prince’s ministers is counted of the same 
weight as one affecting the prince’s person. A minister serves both his 
prince and his state; if he is removed, it is as if the former were deprived 
of an arm 21 and the latter of a part of its power.” If servitude herself 
arrived on earth, she would not speak otherwise. 

16 Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius. It is the third one of the Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, 
Code 9.29.2(3)]; de crimine sacrilegii. 

17 “It is the equivalent of sacrilege to doubt whether he whom the Emperor has chosen shall 
be worthy” [L.]. Ibid. [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.29.2(3); de crimine sacrilegii]. This law 
was a model for Roger’s law in the Institutions of Naples, tit. 4 [Liber Augustalis or The 
Constitutions of Melfi, 1231; 1.4]. 

l8 Law 5 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.8.5]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 

19 Arcadius and Honorius. 

20 [Claude de Bourdeille, Comte de] Montresor, Memoirs, vol. 1 [1, 238-239; 1723 edn]. 

21 “For they themselves are a part of our body” [L.]. Same law in the Code [Corpus Juris 
Civilis, Code 9.8.5]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 


Part 2 

Another law of Valentinian, Theodosius, and Arcadius 22 declares 
counterfeiters guilty of the crime of high treason. But does that not 
confuse ideas about things? Does not giving the name of high treason to 
another crime diminish the horror of the crime of high treason? 

22 It is Law 9 in the Codex Theodosianus ; de falsa moneta [9.2 1 .9]. 


Continuation of the same subject 

When Paulinus sent word to the Emperor Alexander that “he was 
preparing to pursue as a traitor a judge who had pronounced against his 
orders,” the emperor answered him that, “in a century like this, 
indirect crimes of high treason had no place .” 23 
When Faustinianus wrote to the same emperor that, having sworn on 
the life of the prince that he would never pardon his slave, he was 
obliged to keep his anger alive in order not to make himself guilty of the 
crime of high treason, the emperor answered him, “Your terror has 
been empty 24 and you do not know my maxims.” 

A senatus-consult 25 ordered that anyone who had melted down the 
rejected statues of the emperor would not be at all guilty of high 
treason. The emperors Severus and Antoninus wrote to Pontius 26 that 
one who sold unconsecrated statues of the emperor would not fall 
under the crime of high treason. The same emperors wrote to Julius 
Cassianus that one who chanced to throw a rock at a statue of the 
emperor should not be pursued as a traitor . 27 The Julian law required 
these sorts of modifications, for it had rendered guilty of treason not 
only those who melted down the statues of the emperors but those who 
committed some similar action , 28 making this crime arbitrary. Once 

23 “In my generation, the accusation of high treason for a variety of causes shall cease” [L.]. 
Law 1, Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.8.1]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 

24 “You conceive my bent of mind with unsuitable anxiety” [L.]. [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 
9.8.2]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 

25 See Law 4, para. 1, Digest [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest]; ad legem Juliam 

26 See Law 5, para. 1, ibid. [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest; ad legem Juliam maiestatis], 

27 Ibid., para. 1 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest; ad legem Juliam maiestatis]. 

28 “Those who might commit some similar thing or another” [L.]. [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis, Law 6. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

many crimes of high treason had been established, one necessarily had 
to distinguish among these crimes. Thus the jurist Ulpian, after saying 
that the accusation of the crime of high treason did not cease on the 
death of the guilty parties, added that this did not extend to all 29 the 
crimes of high treason as established by the Julian law, but only to the 
one that included an attempt on the empire or on the emperor’s life. 

29 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 48.4.1 1]; ad legem Juliatn maiestatis, in the last law. 


Continuation of the same subject 

A law of England, passed under Henry VIII, declared that all those who 
predicted the king’s death were guilty of high treason. This law was 
very vague. Despotism is so terrible that it even turns against those who 
exercise it. In the last illness of this king, the doctors never dared to say 
that he was in danger, and no doubt they acted accordingly . 30 

30 Gilbert Burnet, The History of the Reformation of the Church of England [pt. i,bk.3; 1547; 1, 
548; 1969 edn]. 


On thoughts 

A certain Marsyas dreamed he cut the throat of Dionysius . 31 Dionysius 
had him put to death, saying that Marsyas would not have dreamed it at 
night if he had not thought it during the day. This was a great tyranny; 
for, even if he had thought it, he had not attempted it . 32 Laws are 
charged with punishing only external actions. 

31 Plutarch [Vit.], Dion [9.5]. 

32 Thought must be joined to some sort of action. 


Part 2 


On indiscreet speech 

Nothing makes the crime of high treason more arbitrary than when 
indiscreet speech becomes its material. Discourse is so subject to 
interpretation, there is so much difference between indiscretion and 
malice and so little in the expressions they use, that the law can scarcely 
subject speech to a capital penalty, unless it declares explicitly which 
speech is subject to it . 33 

Speech does not form a corpus delicti : it remains only an idea. Most 
frequently it has no meaning in itself but rather in the tone in which it is 
spoken. Often when repeating the same words, one does not express 
the same meaning; the meaning depends on the link the words have 
with other things. Silence sometimes expresses more than any speech. 
Nothing is so equivocal. How, then, can one make speech a crime of 
high treason? Wherever this law is established, not only is there no 
longer liberty, there is not even its shadow. 

In the manifesto of the late Czarina against the family Olguruki , 34 
one prince of this family is condemned to death for speaking indecently 
of her person and another for interpreting spitefully her wise arrange- 
ments for the empire and for offending her sacred person by disre- 
spectful speech. 

I do not intend to diminish the indignation one should have against 
those who want to stigmatize the glory of their prince, but I do say that if 
one wants to moderate despotism, punishing with a simple correction 
will suit these occasions better than an accusation of high treason, 
which is always terrible, even to the innocent . 35 

Actionable acts are not an everyday occurrence; they may be 
observed by many people: a false accusation over facts can easily be 
clarified. The words that are joined to an act take on the nature of that 
action. Thus a man who goes into the public square to exhort the 
subjects to revolt becomes guilty of high treason, because the speech is 

33 “It should not be punished as a crime unless it be set down in the letter of the law or 
established by examples in the law” [L ], says Moestinus in Law 7, para. 3 of the Digest 
[Corpus Juris Civilis , Digest; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 

34 In 1740. 

35 “Itis in noway easy to interpret the deceits of language” [L.], Modestinus, in Law 7, para. 
3 of the Digest [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

joined to the act and participates in it. It is not speech that is punished 
but an act committed in which speech is used. Speech becomes 
criminal only when it prepares, when it accompanies, or when it follows 
a criminal act. Everything is turned upside down if speech is made a 
capital crime instead of being regarded as the sign of a capital crime. 

The emperors Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius wrote to Ruf- 
finus, the praetorian prefect: “If someone speaks ill of our person or 
our government, we do not want to punish him ; 36 if he has spoken 
frivolously, he must be scorned; if it is madness, he must be pitied; if it 
is an insult, he must be pardoned. Thus, looking at the thing as a whole, 
you will inform us of it so that we may judge speeches by the persons 
and weigh carefully whether we should subject them to judgment or 
ignore them.” 

36 “If this should proceed from levity, it deserves contempt; if from insanity, it is most 
deserving of pity; if with intent to injure, it ought to be pardoned” [L.]; a single law in the 
Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.7.1]; si quis imperatori maledixerit. 


On writings 

Writings contain something more permanent than speech, but when 
they do not prepare the way for high treason, they are not material to 
the crime of high treason. 

Nevertheless Augustus and Tiberius appended to writings the 
penalty for this crime : 37 Augustus, when certain things were written 
against illustrious men and women; Tiberius, because of those he 
believed written against himself. Nothing was more fatal to Roman 
liberty. Cremutius Cordus was accused because in his annals he had 
called Cassius the last of the Romans . 38 

Satirical writings are scarcely known in despotic states, where 
dejection on the one hand and ignorance on the other produce neither 
the talent nor the will to write them. In democracy, they are not 
prevented, for the very reason that they are prohibited in the govem- 

37 Tacitus ,Annales, bk. 1 [1.72.3-4]. That continued under the subsequent reigns. See the 
first law of the Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 9.36.2]; de famosis libellis. 

38 Idem, bk. 4 [Tacitus, Anrnles, 4.34]. 


Part 2 

ment of one alone. As they are usually composed against powerful 
people, they flatter the spitefulness of the people who govern in a 
democracy. In a monarchy, they are prohibited, but they have been 
made an object of police rather than of crime/ They can amuse the 
general spitefulness, console malcontents, reduce envy of those in high 
positions, give the people the patience to suffer, and make them laugh 
about their sufferings. 

Aristocracy is the government that most proscribes satirical works. 
Magistrates there are little sovereigns who are not big enough to scorn 
insults. If in monarchy some barb is thrown against the monarch, he is 
so high that the barb does not reach him. An aristocratic lord is pierced 
through and through. Thus, the decemvirs, who formed an aristocracy, 
punished satirical writings with death . 39 

39 The Law of Twelve Tables. 

“'See 26.24 and note r for Montesquieu’s explanation of the meaning of police. 


The violation of modesty in punishing crimes 

Rules of modesty are observed among almost all the nations of the 
world; it would be absurd to violate them in punishing crimes, when its 
purpose should always be the reestablishment of order. 

Did those in the East, who exposed women to elephants trained for 
an abominable kind of punishment, want to make the law violate the 

An old usage of the Romans forbade putting to death girls who were 
not nubile. Tiberius hit upon the expedient of having them raped by the 
executioner before sending them to their punishment ; 40 a crafty and 
cruel tyrant, he destroyed mores in order to preserve customs. 

When the Japanese magistracy had naked women exposed in public 
squares and forced them to walk like beasts, it made modesty tremble ; 41 

^Suetonius [Vitae duodecim Caesarum \ , Tiberius [61.5]. 

41 Recueildes voyages qui ont servi a I'establmement de la Compagniedes Indes,\o\. 5, pt. 2 [Reyer 
Gysbertsz, “Histoire d’une persecution”; 5, 425; 1706 edn; 5, 496; 1725 edn]. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

but when it wanted to compel a mother. . . , when it wanted to compel 
a son. . . , I cannot go on, it made even nature tremble . 42 

42 Ibid.,p. 496 [Recueil des voyages qut ont servi a I'htablissemenl de la Compagnie des tndes Reyer 
Gysbertsz, “Histoire d’une persecution”; 5, 425-426; 1706 edn; 5, 496; 1725 edn]. 


On freeing the slave in order to accuse the master 

Augustus established that the slaves of those who had conspired against 
him would be sold to the public, so that they could make depositions 
against their masters . 43 Nothing should be neglected that leads to the 
discovery of a serious crime. Thus, in a state where there are slaves, it is 
natural for them to be informers, but they cannot be witnesses. 

Vindex denounced the conspiracy in support of Tarquin, but he was 
not a witness against the children of Brutus. To give liberty to one who 
had rendered such a great service to his homeland was just, but liberty 
was not given to him so that he would render this service to his 

Thus, the emperor Tacitus ordered that slaves would not be 
witnesses against their master, even in the crime of high treason , 44 a law 
that was not put into Justinian’s compilation. 

43 Cass. Dio [Hisioria Romana, 55.5.4], in Xiphilinus. 

^Flavius Vopiscus [ Tacitus , 27.9.4]. 


Slander in the crime of high treason 

One must be just to the Caesars: they were not the first to imagine the 
sad laws they made. It was Sulla 45 who taught them that slanderers 
must not be punished. Soon one went so far as to reward them . 46 

45 Sulla made a law of high treason, mentioned in Cicero’s orations, Pro Cluentio, art. 3 [24— 
25, 94-97,99 ]; In Pisonem, art. 21 [21.50];/?! Verrem, 2nd art. 5 [2.1 .5.12-15], Epistolae ad 
familiares, bk. 3, letter 2 [3.1 1.1—3], Caesar and Augustus inserted them in the Julian laws; 
others added to them. 

46 “The one who was the more distinguished informer would achieve more honors; it was as 


Part 2 

if he were a sacred personage” [L.]. Tacitus [Anndes 4.36]. [M. has cited the passage 
incorrectly and is perhaps quoting from memory.] 


On revealing conspiracies 

“If thy brother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or 
thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: ‘Let 
us go to other gods , 5 thou shalt stone him; thine hand shall be first upon 
him, and afterwards the hand of all the people.” This law of 
Deuteronomy 47 cannot be a civil law among most of the peoples that we 
know because it would open the door to all crimes. 

The law in many states that ordered that, on penalty of death, one 
reveal even the conspiracies in which one did not have a hand, is 
scarcely less harsh. It is very suitable to restrict this law when it is 
carried into a monarchical government. 

It should be applied there in all its severity only to the crime of high 
treason in the first degree. In such states it is very important not to 
confuse the different degrees of this crime. 

In Japan, where the laws upset all ideas of human reason, the failure 
to reveal a crime is considered a crime in the most ordinary cases. 

An account 48 tells us of two young ladies who were shut up in a box 
studded with nails until they died; the one, for having had some 
intrigue of gallantry; the other, for not having revealed it. 

47 (Deuteronomy] chap. 13, w. 6-9 [M. quotes part of w. 6 and 9]. 

^Recueil des voyages qui ont servi a Vhtablissement de la Contpagnie des Indes, bk. 5, pt. 2, 
p. 423 (“Voiage de Hagenaar aux Indes Orientales”; 5, 347; 1706 edn; 5, 423; 
1725 edn]. 


How dangerous it is in republics to punish excessively the 
crime of high treason 

When a republic has destroyed those who want to upset it, one must 
hasten to put an end to vengeances, penalties, and even rewards. 

One cannot inflict great punishments, and consequendy, make great 


Political liberty and the citizen 

changes, without putting a great power into the hands of a few citizens. 
It is better then, in this case, to pardon many than to punish many, to 
exile few than to exile many, to leave men their goods than to multiply 
confiscations. On the pretext of avenging the republic, one would 
establish the tyranny of the avengers. It is not a question of destroying 
the one who dominates but of destroying domination. One must return 
as quickly as possible to the ordinary pace of government where the 
laws protect all and are armed against no one. 

The Greeks put no limits to the vengeances they wreaked on tyrants 
or on those they suspected of being tyrants. They put children to 
death , 49 sometimes five of the closest relatives . 50 They drove out an 
infinite number of families. Their republics were shaken by this; exile 
and the return of the exiled were always periods marking a change in 
the constitution. 

The Romans were wiser. When Cassius was condemned for aspiring 
to tyranny, the question of putting his children to death was raised; his 
children were not condemned to any penalty. “Those who wanted to 
change this law at the end of the war with the Marsi and of the civil war 
and to exclude from public offices the children of those proscribed by 
Sulla, are certainly criminal,” says Dionysius of Halicarnassus . 51 

In the wars of Marius and Sulla one sees the extent to which the souls 
of the Romans had gradually become depraved. Things were so 
lamentable that one believed they would not be seen again. But under 
the Triumvirate one wanted to be more cruel and appear less so; the 
sophisms that were used by cruelty are distressing to see. The formula 
for proscriptions is found in Appian . 52 You would say that one has there 
no other purpose than the good of the republic, so coolly does one 
speak there, so many advantages does one show, so preferable to others 
are the means one takes, so secure will the rich be, so tranquil will the 
common people be, so much does one fear to put the citizen’s lives in 
danger, so much does one want to pacify the soldiers, finally, so happy 
will one be . 53 

Rome was drowned in blood when Lepidus triumphed over Spain, 

49 Dion. Ha l.,Ant. Rom., bk. 8 [8.80.3]. 

50 “The tyrant being killed, a magistrate shall slay his five closest relatives” [L.] [Cicero] De 
inventione, bk. 2 [2.49.144]. 

51 [Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom.] bk. 8, p. 547 [8.80.2]. 

52 [Appian] The Civil Wars, bk. 4 [4.2.1 1]. 

53 “May it be fortunate and auspicious with you!” [L.] [Appian, The Civil Wars 4.2.1 1]. 


Part 2 

and, by an unexampled absurdity, he ordered the people to rejoice over 
the triumph, on penalty of proscription. 54 

54 “Let this day be given over to feasts and sacrifices; those who do otherwise, let them be 
among the proscribed” [L.]. [Appian, The Civil Wars 4.5.31]. 


How the usage of liberty is suspended in a republic 

There are, in the states where one sets the most store by liberty, laws 
that violate it for a single person in order to keep it for all. Such are what 
are called bills of attainder 55 in England. They are related to those laws 
of Athens that were enacted against an individual 56 provided they were 
made by the vote of six thousand citizens. They are related to those laws 
made in Rome against individual citizens, which were called privi- 
leges 57 They were made only in the great estates of the people. But, 
however the people made them, Cicero wanted them abolished, 
because the force of the law consists only in its being enacted for 
everyone. 58 1 admit, however, that the usage of the freest peoples that 
ever lived on earth makes me believe that there are cases where a veil 
has to be drawn, for a moment, over liberty, as one hides the statues of 
the gods. 

55 It is not enough, in the tribunals of the kingdom, for there to be a piece of evidence that 
convinces the judges; this piece of evidence must also be formal, that is, legal; and the law 
requires there to be two witnesses against the accused; an additional piece of evidence 
would not suffice. Now if a man, presumed guilty of what is called a high crime, had found 
a way to keep the witnesses from appearing so that it was impossible to condemn him 
under the law, one could bring a special bill of attainder against him, that is, make a 
singular law concerning his person. One proceeds as with any other bill: it must pass the 
two Houses and the king must give his consent, otherwise there is no bill, that is, no 
judgment. The accused can have his advocates speak against the bill, and one can speak for 
the bill in the House. 

56 “A law concerning a single individual ought not to be proposed unless six thousand have 
considered it” [L.] Andocides, Orationes, De mysteriis (87]. This is ostracism. 

S7 “Proposed concerning private individuals” [L.]. Cicero, De legibus, bk. 3 [3.19.44-45]. 

58 “A decree and law over all” [L.]. Cicero, ibid. [De legibus 3.19.44]. 


Political liberty and the citizen 


On laws favorable to the citizen ’s liberty in the republic 

It often happens in popular states that accusations are made in public 
and any man is permitted to indict whomever he wants. This has 
brought about the establishment of laws proper to the defense of the 
innocence of the citizens. In Athens, the accuser who did not get a fifth 
of the votes for his side paid a fine of a thousand drachmas. Aeschines, 
who had accused Ctesiphon, was condemned for this .' 9 In Rome, the 
unjust accuser was branded with infamy , 60 and the letter “K” was 
stamped on his forehead. Guard was kept on the accuser so that he 
would not be in a position to corrupt the judges or witnesses . 61 

I have already spoken of that Athenian and Roman law that permit- 
ted the one indicted to go into exile before the judgment. 

59 See [Flavius] Philostratus, Vitae sophistarum, Aeschines, bk. i [510, Olearius]. See also 
Plutarch [Moralia. Vitae decern oratorum 84od-e] and Photius [Bibliotheca 6 1 , “Aeschines”; 
20a 1 8-30]. 

60 By the Remnian law. 

61 Plutarch [Moralia], De capienda ex inimicis utilitate [9id-e]. 


On the cruelty of laws concerning debtors in a republic 

One citizen has already gained a great superiority over another citizen 
by lending silver that the latter had borrowed only to disburse and that, 
in consequence, he no longer has. What will happen in a republic, if the 
laws increase this servitude still more? 

In Athens and in Rome , 62 it was at first permitted to sell debtors who 
were not in a position to pay. Solon corrected this usage in Athens ; 63 he 
ordered that no one would be obligated by his person for civil debts. 
But the decemvirs 64 did not similarly reform the Roman usage, and 
although they had Solon’s regulation before their eyes, they refused to 

62 Many sold their children to pay their debts. Plutarch [Vit.], Solon [13.3]. 

63 Ibid. [Plutarch, Vit., Solon 15.3]. 

64 In history it appears that this usage was established among the Romans before the Law of 
Twelve Tables. Livy, decade 1, bk. 2 [2.23-24]. 


Part 2 

follow it. This is not the only place in the Law of Twelve Tables where 
one sees that the design of the decemvirs ran counter to the spirit of 

The cruel laws concerning debtors often endangered the Roman 
republic. A man covered with sores escaped from the house of his 
creditor and appeared in the square. 65 The people were moved by this 
spectacle. Other citizens left their prisons when their creditors no 
longer dared hold them. Promises were made, but they were broken: 
the people withdrew to the Mons Sacer. The people gained, instead of 
the abrogation of these laws, a magistrate to defend them. One was 
moving away from anarchy; one risked falling into tyranny. Manlius, in 
order to make himself popular, was going to take from the hands of 
their creditors the citizens who had been reduced to slavery. 66 One 
prevailed against his designs, but the evil remained. Particular laws 
facilitated payments by debtors, 67 and in Roman year 428 [328 B.c.], 
the consuls proposed a law 68 that took away the creditors’ right to hold 
debtors in servitude in their houses. 69 A usurer named Papirius had 
wanted to corrupt the modesty of a young man named Publius whom he 
kept in irons. The crime of Sextus gave Rome political liberty; that of 
Papirius gave it civil liberty. 

It was Rome’s fate that new crimes confirmed the liberty that old 
crimes had procured for it. The attempt of Appius on Virginia revived 
in the people the horror of tyrants inspired in them by Lucretia’s 
misfortune. Thirty-seven years 70 after the crime of the infamous 
Papirius, a similar crime 71 made the people withdraw to the Jani- 
culum 72 and renewed the force of the law made for the security of 

65 Dion. Hal, Ant. Rom., bk. 6 [6.26]. 

^Plutarch [Vit.], Furius Camillus [36.3-4]. 

67 See below, bk. 22, chap. 22. 

68 0 ne hundred and twenty years after the Law of Twelve Tables. “For the Roman 
plebeians, this year was like another beginning of liberty because they ceased to be 
enslaved for debts” [L.]. Livy, bk. 8 [8.28.1]. 

69 “The property of the debtors but not their bodies would be held liable” [L.]. Ibid. [Livy 

70 In Roman year 465 [289 b.c.]. 

71 That of Plautius, who attacked the modesty of Veturius. Valerius Maximus [Factorum et 
dictorum memorabilium ], bk. 6, art. 9 [6. 1 .9]. One should not confuse these two events; they 
are neither the same persons nor the same times. 

72 See a fragment of Dion. Hal., in [Ant. Rom. 16.5 (9)], Extracts of Virtues and Vices ; Livy, 
Epitome, bk. 1 1; andjohann Freinsheim [Supplementorum Livianorum], bk. 11 [11.25-26]. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

Subsequently, more creditors were pursued by debtors for violating 
the laws made against usurers than debtors were pursued for not 
having paid their debts. 


On things that attack liberty in a monarchy 

The least useful thing in the world to the prince has often weakened 
liberty in monarchies: the commissioners sometimes named to judge 
an individual. 

The prince has so little use for commissioners that it is not 
worthwhile for him to change the order of things for their sake. It is 
morally certain that he has more of the spirit of integrity and justice 
than his commissioners, who always believe themselves sufficiendy 
justified by orders, by a hidden interest of the state, by having been 
chosen, and even by their fears. 

Under Henry VIII, when a peer was tried, he was to be judged by 
commissioners drawn from the House of Lords; with this method one 
put to death all the peers one wanted. 


On spies in a monarchy 

Must there be spies in a monarchy? It is not the ordinary practice of 
good princes. When a man is faithful to the laws, he has satisfied what 
he owes to the prince. He must at least have his house as an asylum and 
be secure about the rest of his conduct. Spying would perhaps be 
tolerable if it could be exercised by honest people, but the necessary 
infamy of the person can make the thing be judged infamous. A prince 
should act toward his subjects with candor, frankness, and trust. He 
who has so many anxieties, suspicions, and fears, is an actor who plays 
his role awkwardly. When he sees that in general the laws are enforced 
and respected, he can judge himself secure. The general demeanor 
speaks to him for the demeanor of all the individuals. Let him have no 


Part 2 

fear; he cannot believe how readily he is loved. Indeed, why would one 
not love him? He is the source of almost all the good that is done, and 
almost all punishing is the responsibility of the laws. He shows himself 
to the people only with a serene countenance; his very glory is 
communicated to us and his power sustains us. A proof that one loves 
him is that one trusts him; and what a minister refuses, one always 
imagines the prince would have granted. Even during public calami- 
ties, one does not accuse his person; one complains that he is unaware 
of them or that he is importuned by corrupt people: If only the prince 
knew ! say the people. These words are a kind of invocation and a proof 
of their trust in him. 


On anonymous letters 

The Tartars are obliged to put their name on their arrows, so that the 
hand from which they come can be known. When Philip of Macedonia 
was wounded at the siege of a town, one found on the javelin, Aster gave 
this mortal blow to Philip f If those who accuse a man did it with a view to 
the public good, they would not accuse him before the prince, for he 
can easily be prejudiced; instead they would go before the magistrates, 
whose rules are fearsome only to slanderers. For if they do not want to 
leave the laws between themselves and the accused, it proves that they 
have cause to fear the laws, and the least penalty that might be inflicted 
on these men is not to believe them. One can pay attention to them only 
in cases that cannot tolerate the delays of ordinary justice and when it is 
a question of the prince’s safety. In that instance, one can believe that 
the accuser has made an effort that loosened his tongue and made him 
talk. But in other cases one must say with the Emperor Constantius: 
“We cannot suspect a man who has no accuser although he does not 
lack enemies .” 74 

73 Plutarch, Moralia, Parallela Gracca et Romana, vol. 2, p. 487 [3071! #8). 

74 Law 6, Codex Theodosianus [9.34.6]; de famosis libellis. 


Political liberty and the citizen 

chapter 25 

On the manner of governing in monarchy 

Royal authority is a great spring that should move easily and noiselessly. 
The Chinese praise one of their emperors who governed, they say, like 
the heavens, that is, by example. 

There are cases when power should act to its full extent; there are 
cases when it should act within its limits. An administration is sublime 
if it is well aware what part of power, great or small, should be used in 
various circumstances. 

In our monarchies, all felicity lies in the people’s opinion of the 
gentleness of the government. An unskillful minister always wants to 
tell you that you are slaves. But, if that were so, he should seek to keep it 
from being known. He can say or write nothing to you, except that the 
prince is angry, that he is surprised, that he will restore order. In a 
certain way, command is easy: the prince must encourage and the laws 
must menace . 75 

75 “Nerva [Nerva Traianus] eased the weight of empire.” Tacitus \Agricola 3]. 


That, in a monarchy, the prince should be accessible 

This will be much better felt by contrasts. “Czar Peter I,” says Lord 
Perry , 76 “has made a new ordinance that forbids presenting him with a 
request before presenting it twice to his officers. One can, in the case of 
denial of justice, present it to him the third time, but if he who presents 
it is wrong, he must lose his life. Since that time, no requests have been 
addressed to the czar.” 

76 {John Perry) The State of Russia under the Present Czar (Paris, 1717), p. 173 [pp 142-143; 
1967 edn). 


Part 2 


On the mores of the monarch 

The mores of the prince contribute as much to liberty as do the laws; 
like the laws, the prince can make beasts of men and men of beasts. If 
he loves free souls, he will have subjects; if he loves common souls, he 
will have slaves. Does he want to know the great art of ruling? Let him 
bring honor and virtue close to him, let him call forth personal merit. 
He can sometimes even cast his eyes toward the talented. Let him not 
fear his rivals, who are called men of merit; he is their equal once he 
loves them. Let him win the heart, but let him not capture the spirit. Let 
him make himself popular. He should be flattered by the love of the 
least of his subjects; they are all men. The people ask so little attention 
that it is just to grant it to them; the infinite distance between the 
sovereign and the people keeps them from disturbing him. Let him 
yield to prayers but be firm against demands, and let him know that his 
people benefit from his refusals as do his courtiers from his favors. 


On the regard monarchs owe their subjects 

They must be extremely restrained in their banter. It flatters when it is 
moderate because it provides the means of becoming familiar, but a 
caustic banter is much less permissible to them than to the least of their 
subjects because they are the only ones who always wound mortally. 

Even less should they conspicuously insult one of their subjects; they 
are established to pardon, to punish, never to insult. 

When they insult their subjects, they treat them more cruelly than 
the Turk or the Muscovite treats his. When the latter insult someone, 
they humble and do not dishonor; but, as for monarchs, they both 
humble and dishonor. 

Such is the prejudice of those of the East that they consider an 
affront by the prince to be a result of paternal goodness; and such is our 
way of thinking that we join to the bitter feeling resulting from this 
affront the despair of being unable to clear ourselves of it. 

They should be charmed to have subjects whose honor is dearer to 


Political liberty and the citizen 

them than life and is no less a motive for faithfulness than for courage. 

One can recall misfortunes that have befallen princes as a result of 
insulting their subjects: the vengeances of Chaerea, of the eunuch 
Narses, and of the Count Julian; finally, of the Duchess of Montpen- 
sier, who, enraged at Henry III for having revealed some one of her 
secret failings, vexed him for the rest of his life. 


On civil laws appropriate for putting a little liberty in 
despotic government 

Though despotic government in its nature is everywhere the same, yet 
circumstances, a religious opinion, a prejudice, received examples, a 
mm of mind, manners, mores, can leave considerable differences 
among them. 

It is well for certain ideas to be established in them. Thus in China, 
the prince is regarded as the father of the people, and, at the beginning 
of the empire of the Arabs, the prince was their preacher . 77 

It is suitable for there to be some sacred book that acts as a rule, like 
the Koran for the Arabs, the books of Zoroaster for the Persians, the 
Veda for the Indians, the classics for the Chinese. The religious code 
replaces the civil code and fixes what is arbitrary. 

It is not bad for judges to consult the ministers of religion in cases 
that are unclear . 78 Thus in Turkey, the cadis question the mullahs. 
And, if the case merits death, the particular judge, if there is one, may 
also suitably seek the advice of the governor, so that the civil power and 
the ecclesiastic power are further tempered by the political authority. 

77 The caliphs. 

78 [Ebulgazi Bahadir Han, Khan of Khorezm] Histoire genealogique des Tatars , pt. 3, p. 277, in 
the remarks [Bentinck’s note, pt. 3, chap. 14; 1, 290; 1726 edn]. 

21 1 

Part 2 


Continuation of the same subject 

It is despotic rage that has established that the father’s disgrace would 
involve the disgrace of children and wives. The latter are already 
unfortunate without being criminal; and besides, the prince must leave 
suppliants between the accused and himself to soften his wrath or 
enlighten his justice. 

In the Maldives , 79 it is a good custom for a lord who is disgraced to 
pay daily court to the king until he is returned to favor; his presence 
disarms the prince’s wrath. 

There are despotic states 80 in which it is thought that speaking to a 
prince on behalf of a disgraced man is to lack the respect due the 
prince. These princes seem to make every effort to deprive themselves 
of the virtue of mercy. 

Arcadius and Honorius, in the law 81 of which I have spoken at 
length , 82 declare that they will not pardon those who dare entreat them 
on behalf of guilty men . 83 This law was very bad, for it is bad even in 

The Persian custom that permits anyone to leave the kingdom who 
wants to, is very good; and though the opposite usage had its origin in 
despotism, where subjects were regarded as slaves 84 and those who left 
were regarded as fugitive slaves, nevertheless, the Persian practice is 
very good in despotisms, where fear of the people’s fleeing or departing 
with what they owe checks or moderates the persecution of pashas and 

79 See Francois Pyrard [Voyages, pt. 1, chap. 8; 1, 89; 1887-1890 edn). 

80 As today in Persia according to the report of [John] Chardin. This usage is quite old. 
Procopius says [in The Persian Wars, “History of the Wars”; 1 .5.7-8], “Cabades was put 
into the castle of oblivion; there is a law forbidding one to speak of those shut up there or 
even to mention their names.” 

81 Law 5 of the Code [Corpus Juris Chilis, Code 9. 8. 5.2]; ad legem Juliam maiestatis. 

82 In chapter 8 of this book. 

83 Frederick copied this law from the Constitutions of Naples, bk. 1 [Liber Augustalis or the 
Constitutions of Melfi (1231], 1.4]. 

84 In monarchies, there is ordinarily a law prohibiting those who have public employments 
from leaving the kingdom without the permission of the prince. This law must also be 
established in republics. But in the ones with singular institutions, the prohibition must be 
generalized so that foreign mores will not be brought in. 


jfe jfe jfe jfe jfe jfe. jfe. jfe jfe jfe A. Jfe. A ifc. &■ &■ jfe jfe jfe jfe Jfe. .&. jfe. A •& ife .& A- 4 1 


BOOK 13 

On the relations that the levy of taxes 
and the size of public revenues 
have with liberty 


On the revenues of the state 

The revenues of the state are a portion each citizen gives of his goods in 
order to have the security or the comfortable enjoyment of the rest. 

In order to fix these revenues well one must consider both the 
necessities of the state and the necessities of the citizens. One must not 
take from the real needs of the people for the imaginary needs of the 

Imaginary needs are the ones sought by the passions and weaknesses 
of those who govern, the charm of an extraordinary project, the sick 
envy of vainglory, and a certain impotence of spirit in the face of their 
fancies. Often those who, with restless spirit, were at the head of public 
business under a prince have thought that the needs of their small souls 
were the needs of the state. 

There is nothing that wisdom and prudence should regulate more 
than the portion taken away from the subjects and the portion left to 

Public revenues must not be measured by what the people can give 
but by what they should give, and if they are measured by what the 
people can give, it must at least be by what they can always give. 


Part 2 


That it is bad reasoning to say that large taxes 
are good in themselves 

In certain monarchies one has seen that small countries that were 
exempt from taxes were as poverty-stricken as the places all around 
them that were overwhelmed by taxes. The principal reason for this is 
that a small, hemmed -in state cannot have industry, arts, or manufac- 
turing because it is hampered in a thousand ways by the large state 
which encloses it. The large surrounding state has industry, manufac- 
turing, and the arts, and it makes regulations procuring all advantages 
for itself. Therefore, the small state necessarily becomes poor, however 
few imposts are levied there. 

Yet it was concluded from the poverty of these little countries that 
there must be heavy burdens" in order to make the people industrious. 
One would have done better to conclude that there must be none. All 
the wretched people from the surrounding area withdraw to these 
places and do nothing; already discouraged by overwhelming work, 
they make their whole felicity consist in idleness. 

The effect of the wealth of a country is to fill all hearts with ambition; 
the effect of poverty is to bring them to despair. Ambition is excited by 
work; poverty is consoled by laziness. 

Nature is just toward men. She rewards them for their pains; she 
makes them hard workers because she attaches greater rewards to 
greater work. But if an arbitrary power removes nature’s rewards, the 
distaste for work recurs and inaction appears to be the only good. 

“Montesquieu uses the term charges, “charges,” “burdens,” to cover a variety of ways a 
government imposes on its subjects: posts, taxes, and services. 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

chapter 3 

On taxes in countries where part of the people 
are slaves to the land 

Slavery to the land* is sometimes established after a conquest. In this 
case, the slave who cultivates the land should be the share-cropper of 
the master. Only the sharing of loss and gain can reconcile those who 
are destined to work with those who are destined to enjoyment. 

h e$davage de la glebe. See 30.5, where Montesquieu speaks of “serfdom,” servitude de la 
glebe (notes “ and bk. 30). 


On a republic in a like case 

When a republic has reduced a nation to cultivating lands for it, one 
should not tolerate the citizen’s increasing the tax of the slave. It was 
not permitted in Lacedaemonia; it was thought that the Helots’ would 
better cultivate the lands when they knew that their servitude would not 
increase; it was believed that the masters would be better citizens when 
they desired only what they were accustomed to having. 

'Plutarch [Moralia, Apophthegmata Laconica, Instituta Laconica 41, 23gd-eJ. 


On a monarchy in a like case 

In a monarchy, when the nobility has the lands cultivated for its profit 
by the conquered people, again the ground-rent must not increase . 2 
Moreover, it is well for the prince to be satisfied with his domain and 
with military service. But, if the prince wants to levy taxes in silver on 
the slaves of his nobility, the lord must stand warrant for the tax , 3 pay it 

2 This is why Charlemagne made his fine institutions about it. See bk. 5 of the Capitularies, 
art. 303 [MCff, LL. 11, pt. 2, Capitularia spuria, Benedicti capitularium, 1.303]. 

3 It is thus practiced in Germany. 


Part 2 

for the slaves, and collect it back from them; and if this rule is not 
followed, the lord and those who levy the revenues for the prince, each 
in his turn, will harass the slave and will, one after the other, collect 
from him until he perishes from poverty or flees into the woods. 


On a despotic state in a like case 

What I have just said is still more indispensable in the despotic state. 
The lord, who can be stripped of his lands and his slaves at any 
moment, is not inclined to preserve them. 

Peter I, wanting to adopt the practice of Germany and levy his taxes 
in silver, made a very wise regulation that is still observed in Russia. 
The gentleman levies an assessment on the peasants and pays it to the 
czar. If the number of the peasants decreases, he pays the same 
amount; if the number increases, he pays no more; therefore, it is in his 
interest not to harass his peasants. 


On taxes in countries where slavery to the land is not 

In a state, when all the individuals are citizens and each one there 
possesses by his domain that which the prince possesses by his empire, 
imposts can be placed on persons, on lands, or on commodities, on two 
of these, or on all three together. 

In respect to an impost on persons, an unjust proportion would be 
one that followed strictly the proportion of goods. In Athens, the 
citizens were divided 4 into four classes. Those who received five 
hundred measures of liquid or dry fruit from their goods paid one 
talent to the public; those who received three hundred measures from 
them, half a talent; those who had two hundred measures paid ten 
minas, or a sixth of a talent; those of the fourth class gave nothing. The 

4 [Julius] Pollux [ Onomasticon ], bk. 8, chap, io, art. 130 [8.10.130], 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

assessment was just although it was not proportional; if it did not follow 
the proportion of goods, it followed the proportion of needs. It was 
judged that each one had an equal physical necessity, that this physical 
necessity should not be assessed, that the useful came next, and that it 
should be assessed, but at less than the superfluous, and that the size of 
the assessment on the superfluous prevented superfluity. 

In the assessment on lands, registers are made for the various classes 
of lands. But it is very difficult to recognize these differences, and still 
more difficult to find people without an interest in failing to recognize 
them. Therefore, there are two kinds of injustice in this case: the 
injustice of the man and the injustice of the thing itself. But if the 
assessment is not excessive in general, if the people are left plenty for 
necessities, the particular injustices will be as nothing. But if, on the 
contrary, the people are left strictly with what they must have in order to 
live, the least disproportion will be of the greatest consequence. 

If some citizens do not pay enough, there is no great harm; their 
plenty always reverts to the public; if some individuals pay too much, 
their ruin turns against the public. If the state matches its fortune to 
that of individuals, the plenty of the individuals will soon make its 
fortune increase. Everything depends on the moment. Will the state 
begin by impoverishing its subjects in order to enrich itself? Or will it 
wait for its subjects to enrich it at their own pace? Will it have the first 
advantage or the second? Will it begin by being rich or will it end by 
being so? 

Duties on commodities are the ones the least felt by the people, 
because no formal request is made for them. They can be so wisely 
managed that the people will be almost unaware that they pay them. To 
do this, it is of great consequence that it be the one who sells the 
commodity who pays the duty. He well knows that he is not paying for 
himself; and the buyer, who ultimately pays it, confounds it with the 
price. Some writers have said that Nero removed the duty of one- 
twenty-fifth on slaves who were sold ; 5 yet he did no more than order 
that the seller would pay it instead of the buyer: this regulation, which 
left all the impost, appeared to have removed it. 

There are two kingdoms in Europe where very high imposts have 
been put on beverages: in one of them the brewer alone pays the duty; 

5 “The tax on the sale of slaves was remitted, but this remission was more specious than real 
because it was also ordered that the seller pay it; this simply increased the price for the 
buyer because it was made part of the price” [L.]. Tacitus, Annates, bk. 13 [1 3.3 1 ]. 


Part 2 

in the other, it is levied alike on all the subjects who drink. In the first, 
no one feels the severity of the impost; in the second, it is regarded as 
onerous: in the former, the citizen feels only his liberty in not paying; in 
the latter, he feels only the necessity that obliges him to pay it. 

Furthermore, in order that the citizen pay, his house must be 
perpetually searched. Nothing is more contrary to liberty, and those 
who establish these sorts of imposts have not the good fortune of having 
discovered, in this regard, the best kind of administration. 

chapter 8 

How the illusion is preserved 

In order to make the price of a thing and its duty become confused in 
the head of the one who pays, there must be some relation between the 
commodity and the impost, and one must not charge excessive duty on 
a product of small value. There are countries where the duty is more 
than seventeen times greater than the value of the commodity. In this 
way the prince removes the illusion from his subjects; they see that they 
are led in an unreasonable manner, and this makes them feel every bit 
of their servitude. 

Besides, for the prince to be able to levy a duty so disproportionate to 
the value of the thing, he must sell the commodity himself and the 
people must not be able to buy it elsewhere; this is subject to a thousand 

As fraud is very lucrative in this case, the natural penalty, the one 
reason demands, which is confiscation of the commodity, becomes 
incapable of checking it, especially because the commodity ordinarily 
has a very low price. Therefore, one must have recourse to extravagant 
penalties like those inflicted for the greatest crimes. This removes all 
proportion in penalties. Men whom one could not consider wicked are 
punished like scoundrels, which is the thing in the world most contrary 
to the spirit of moderate government. 

I add that the more opportunities a people are given to defraud the 
tax-collector, the more the latter is enriched and the former are 
impoverished. In order to check fraud, tax-collectors must be given 
extraordinary means of harassment, and all is lost. 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

chapter 9 

On a bad sort of impost 

We shall speak incidentally of an impost established in some states on 
the various clauses of civil contracts. In order to protect oneself from 
the tax-collector, one must have a vast knowledge, as these things are 
subject to subde examinations. So, the tax-collector, the interpreter of 
the prince’s regulations, exercises an arbitrary power over fortunes. 
Experience has shown that an impost on the paper on which the 
contract is to be written would be much better. 


That the size of taxes depends on the nature of the 

Taxes should be vety light in despotic government. Otherwise, who 
would want to take the trouble to cultivate the land? Moreover, how can 
high taxes be paid in a government that does nothing to replace what 
the subject has given? 

Given the stunning power of the prince and the strange weakness of 
the people, there must be no ambiguity about anything. Taxes should 
be so easy to collect and so clearly established that they cannot be 
increased or diminished by those who levy them. A portion of the fruits 
of the earth, an assessment by head, a tax of some percent on 
commodities are the only suitable ones. 

It is well in despotic government for merchants to have a personal 
passage of safe-conduct and for usage to make them respected; 
otherwise, they would be too weak in discussions they might have with 
the officers of the prince. 


Part 2 


On fiscal penalties 

A peculiarity of fiscal penalties is that, contrary to general practice, they 
are more severe in Europe than in Asia. In Europe, commodities, 
sometimes even ships and vehicles, are confiscated; in Asia, one takes 
neither the one nor the other. This is because in Europe the merchant 
has judges who can protect him from oppression; in Asia, despotic 
judges would themselves be the oppressors. What would the merchant 
do against a pasha who had decided to confiscate his commodities? 

This harassment defeats itself and one sees it constrained to be 
somewhat gende. In Turkey, only one entry duty is levied; after that, 
the whole country is open to merchants. False declarations result 
neither in confiscation nor in increase of duties. In China, packages 
that belong to people who are not merchants are not opened . 6 Fraud 
among the Moguls is punished not by confiscation but by the doubling 
of the duty. The Tartar princes 7 who live in Asian towns levy almost 
nothing on the commodities that pass through. And, if in Japan the 
crime of commercial fraud is a capital crime, it is because one has 
reasons for prohibiting all communication with foreigners and because 
fraud 8 there is an infringement of the laws made for the security of the 
state rather than of the laws of commerce. 

6 [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [. Description de VEmpire de la Chine, “De la police de la Chine”), 
vol. 2, p. 37 [2, 67 H; 2, 57 P; 2, 97 L). 

7 [Ebulgazi Bahadir Han, Khan of Khorezm] Histoire genealogique des Tatars, pt. 3, p. 290 
[Bentinck’s note, pt. 3, chap. 16; 1, 290; 1726 edn]. 

8 As they wanted to have a commerce with foreigners without entering into communication 
with them, they chose two nations: the Dutch for the commerce with Europe and the 
Chinese for that with Asia. They keep factors and sailors in a kind of prison and hamper 
them so much that they lose patience. 


The relation of the size of taxes to liberty 

general rule: One can levy heavier taxes in proportion to the 
liberty of the subjects and one is forced to moderate them insofar as 
servitude increases. This has always been and will always be. It is a rule 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

drawn from nature, which does not change; this rule is found in all 
countries, in England, in Holland, and in all states of decreasing liberty 
down to Turkey. Switzerland does not seem to conform to this because 
no taxes are paid there, but the particular reason is known, and it even 
confirms what I say. In those barren mountains, food is so dear and the 
country so heavily populated that a Swiss pays four times more to 
nature than a Turk pays to the sultan. 

Dominant peoples such as the Athenians and the Romans can free 
themselves from every impost because they reign over subject nations. 
So they do not pay in proportion to their liberty; this is because, in this 
regard, they are not a people but a monarch. 

But the general rule still holds. In moderate states, there is a 
compensation for heavy taxes; it is liberty. In despotic states , 9 there is 
an equivalent for liberty; it is the modest taxes. 

In certain European monarchies there are provinces 10 that, by the 
nature of their political government, are in a better position than others. 
One always imagines that they do not pay enough, because as a result of 
the goodness of their government, they could pay even more; and it 
keeps coming to mind to take away the very government that produces 
the good that is communicated, that spreads afar, and that it would be 
much better to enjoy. 

9 In Russia, taxes are of medium size; they have been increased since despotism has become 
more moderate. See [Ebulgazi Bahadir Han, Khan of Khorezm] Histoire genealogique des 
Tatars , pt. 2 [Bentinck’s note, pt. 9, chap. 9, “Du regne d’Arap-Mohamet-Chan”; 2, 726; 
1726 edn], 

10 The pays d'Etats. 


In which government taxes are susceptible of increase 

Taxes can be increased in most republics because the citizen, who 
believes he is paying to himself, has the will to pay them and ordinarily 
has the power to do so as a result of the nature of the government. 

In monarchy, taxes can be increased because the moderation of the 
government can procure wealth there; it is a kind of reward to the 
prince for his respect of the laws. 


Part 2 

In the despotic state they cannot be increased because extreme 
servitude cannot be increased. 


That the nature of taxes is relative to the government 

An impost by head is more natural to servitude; the impost on 
commodities is more natural to liberty because it relates less directly to 
the person/ 

It is natural in despotic government for the prince not to pay his 
militia or the people in his court in silver but to distribute lands to them, 
and there are, consequently, few taxes levied. For if the prince pays in 
silver, the most natural tax he can levy is a tax by head. This tax can only 
be very modest, for, as one cannot make various classes of wealthy tax- 
payers because of the abuses that would result, given the injustice and 
the violence of the government, one must necessarily be ruled by the 
rates that the poorest can pay. 

The tax natural to moderate government is the impost on commodi- 
ties. This impost, really paid by the buyers although advanced by the 
merchant, is a loan the merchant makes to the buyer; thus, the trader 
must be regarded as both the general debtor of the state and the 
creditor of all the individuals. He advances to the state the duty the 
buyer will eventually pay, and he has paid, for the buyer, the duty he has 
paid for the commodity. Therefore, it is felt that the more moderate the 
government, the more the spirit of liberty reigns, and the more secure 
fortunes are, the easier it is for the merchant to advance substantial 
duties to the state and to lend them to individuals. In England, a 
merchant really lends the state fifty to sixty pounds sterling for every 
barrel of wine he receives. What merchant would dare to do this kind of 
thing in a country governed like Turkey? And, if he dared to do it, how 
would he be able to, with a suspect, uncertain, and ruined fortune? 

‘It is clear from this sentence that an “impost,” impol, is a particular “tax,” tribute. 

These may be based on an “assessment,” taxe. 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

chapter 15 

The abuse of liberty 

These great advantages of liberty have caused the abuse of liberty itself. 
Because moderate government has produced remarkable results, this 
moderation has been abandoned; because large taxes have been raised, 
one has wanted to raise excessive ones; and, disregarding the hand of 
liberty that gave this present, one has turned to servitude, which refuses 

Liberty has produced excessive taxes, but the effect of these excess- 
ive taxes is to produce servitude in their turn, and the effect of servitude 
is to produce a decrease in taxes. 

The monarchs of Asia make edicts about almost nothing except the 
exempting each year of some province in their empire ; 11 such manifes- 
tations of their will are kindnesses. But in Europe, the edicts of the 
princes cause grief even before they are seen because they always speak 
of their needs and never of ours. 

From an inexcusable lisdessness that the ministers in these countries 
get from their government and often from their climate, the people gain 
the advantage that they are not constandy overwhelmed with new 
demands. Expenditures there do not increase because there are no new 
projects and if by chance there are some, they are projects whose end 
can be seen and not projects just beginning. Those who govern the 
state do not harry it because they do not endlessly harry themselves. 
But for us, it is impossible to have regularity in our finances because we 
always know that we shall do something, and never what we shall do. 

Among ourselves, we no longer consider a great minister to be one 
who dispenses public revenues wisely, but rather one who is an 
industrious man and who finds what are called expedients. 

’’This is the usage of the emperors of China. 


Part 2 


On the conquests of the Mohammedans 

These excessive taxes 12 accounted for the strange ease with which the 
Mohammedans made their conquests. Instead of that continuous 
succession of harassments devised by the subtle avarice of the 
emperors, the peoples saw themselves subjected to a simple tax that 
was easily paid and was similarly accepted; they obeyed a barbarian 
nation more happily than the corrupt government under which they 
had suffered both all the drawbacks of a liberty they no longer had and 
all the horrors of a present servitude. 

12 See what history says about the greatness, the eccentricity, and even the madness of these 
taxes. Anastasius devised one for breathing air: “so that whoever inhaled a breath of air 
paid the penalty” [L.]. 


On the increase in troops 

A new disease has spread across Europe; it has afflicted our princes and 
made them keep an inordinate number of troops. It redoubles in 
strength and necessarily becomes contagious; for, as soon as one state 
increases what it calls its troops, the others suddenly increase theirs, so 
that nothing is gained thereby but the common ruin. Each monarch 
keeps ready all the armies he would have if his peoples were in danger 
of being exterminated; and this state in which all strain against all is 
called peace . 13 Thus Europe is so ruined that if individuals were in the 
situation of the three most opulent powers in this part of the world, they 
would have nothing to live on. We are poor with the wealth and 
commerce of the whole universe, and soon, as a result of these soldiers, 
we shall have nothing but soldiers and we shall be like the Tartars . 14 

The great princes, not content to buy troops from smaller ones, seek 
everywhere to buy alliances, that is, almost always to lose their silver. 

13 It is true that it is this state of effort which principally maintains the balance, because it 
exhausts the great powers. 

14 For this, one must make use of the new invention of the militia established in almost the 
whole of Europe and push them to the same excess as the regular troops. 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

The consequence of such a situation is the permanent increase in 
taxes; and that which prevents all remedies in the future is that one no 
longer counts on the revenues, but makes war with one’s capital. It is 
not unheard of for states to mortgage their lands even during peace and 
to ruin themselves by means they call extraordinary, which are so highly 
extraordinary that the most deranged son of a family could scarcely 
imagine them. 


On the remission of taxes 

The maxim of the great eastern empires, that taxes should be returned 
to provinces that have suffered, could well be brought to monarchical 
states. There are many places where this is established, but more are 
overwhelmed than if it were not established, because, since the prince 
does not vaiy his levy, the whole state becomes jointly responsible. To 
relieve a village whose payments are deficient, one burdens another 
that pays more; the first is not restored, the second is destroyed. The 
people grow desperate between the necessity of paying from fear of 
exactions and the danger of paying from fear of surcharges. 

A well-governed state should put in the first item of its expenditures 
a regular sum for fortuitous cases. In this, the public is like those 
individuals who ruin themselves by spending exactly the income from 
their lands. 

In regard to the joint responsibility among the inhabitants of a 
village, this has been said 15 to be reasonable because one could assume 
a fraudulent plot on their part; but, where has one found that, based on 
suppositions, a thing that is unjust in itself and ruinous for the state has 
to be established? 

15 See [Pieter Burman] Vectigaliapopuli Romani, chap. 2, Paris, Briasson, 1740 [chap. 2, “De 
vectigali ex agris publici”; pp. 12-25; 1734 edn]. 


Part 2 


What is most suitable for the prince and the people, 
tax-farming or direct taxes ? 

Direct taxes'' are the administration of a good father of a family who 
levies his revenues himself with economy and order. 

With direct taxes, the prince is in charge of hastening or delaying 
their levy, either according to his needs or according to those of his 
peoples. With direct taxes, he saves the state the immense profits made 
by tax-farmers, who impoverish it in infinite ways. With direct taxes, he 
saves the people from the grievous spectacle of sudden fortunes. With 
direct taxes, the silver levied passes through few hands; it goes directly 
to the prince and consequently reverts more promptly to the people. 
With direct taxes, the prince saves the people from an infinity of bad 
laws that are ever extorted from him by the importunate avarice of the 
tax-farmers whose present advantage lies in regulations that are fatal 
for the future. 

Since the one who has silver is always the master of the one without, 
the tax-farmer is despotic over even the prince; he is not a legislator but 
he forces him to give laws. 

I admit that it is sometimes useful to begin by farming out a newly 
established duty. There are arts and inventions for warding off frauds 
that the interest of the tax-farmers suggests to them and that agents 
could not have devised; but, once the system for the levy is made by the 
tax-farmer, direct taxes can be successfully established. In England, 
the administration of the excise and of the revenues from the post office, 
such as it is today, was borrowed from that of the tax-farmers. 

In republics, the revenues of the state are almost always from direct 
taxes. The contrary establishment was a great vice of the Roman 
government. 16 In despotic states, where direct taxes are established, the 

16 Caesar was obliged to take the publicans out of the province of Asia and to establish there 
another sort of administration, as we learn from Cass. Dio [Historia Romana 42.6.3]. And 
Tacitus tells us [Annates 1.76.2] that it was granted to Macedonia and Achaea, provinces 
which Augustus had left to the Roman people, and which, consequently, were governed 
on the old plan, to be among those the emperor governed through his officers. 

d La regie , “direct taxes,” or the collection of taxes by governmental officials paid to do 
the task. This contrasts with tax-farming, where the collectors keep some part of the 
taxes they collect. 


The levy of taxes and public revenues 

peoples are infinitely happier: witness Persia and China . 17 The unhap- 
piest are those where the prince farms out his sea-ports and com- 
mercial towns. The history of monarchies is full of the ills caused by 

Nero, indignant at the harassments of the publicans, formed the 
impossible and magnanimous project of abolishing all imposts. He did 
not devise direct taxation; he made 18 four ordinances: that the laws 
made against the publicans, hitherto kept secret, would be published; 
that they could no longer exact what they had neglected to demand 
during the year; that a praetor would be established to judge the 
praetors’ claims with no formality; and that the merchants would pay 
nothing for ships. Those were the halcyon days of this emperor. 

17 See [John] Chardin, Voyages en Perse et autres lieux de I’Orient, vol. 6 [“Description du 
gouvemement politique militaire et civil des Persans”, chap. 2; 5, 237; 181 1 edn], 
I8 Tacitus, Annales, bk. 13 [13.51]. 


On tax-collectors 

All is lost when the lucrative profession of tax-collectors, by its wealth, 
comes to be an honored profession. This can be good in despotic states, 
where their employment is often a part of the functions of the governors 
themselves. It is not good in a republic, and a similar thing destroyed 
the Roman republic. It is no better in a monarchy; nothing is more 
contrary to the spirit of this government. Disgust infects all the other 
estates; honor loses all its esteem there; the slow and natural means for 
distinguishing oneself no longer have an effect, and the principle of the 
government is stricken. 

In times past, one certainly saw scandalous fortunes; it was one of the 
calamities of the Fifty Years Wars; but at that time this wealth was 
regarded as ridiculous, and we admire it. 

Every profession has some things as its lot. The lot of those who levy 
taxes is wealth, and the reward for this wealth is wealth itself. Glory and 
honor are for that nobility which knows, sees, and feels no real good 
except honor and glory. Respect and esteem are for those ministers and 
those magistrates who, finding only work upon work, watch day and 
night over the happiness of the empire. 


Part 3 

f = 

BOOK 14 

On the laws in their relation 
to the nature of the climate 


The general idea 

If it is true that the character* of the spirit and the passions of the heart 
are extremely different in the various climates, laws should be relative 
to the differences in these passions and to the differences in these 

“Caractere can mean mark or sign, trait, or a habitual way of acting and feeling. When 
Montesquieu uses caractere , he seems to mean a form or shape of the spirit, combining 
these meanings. 


How much men differ in the various climates 

Cold air 1 contracts the extremities of the body’s surface fibers; this 
increases their spring and favors the return of blood from the extremi- 
ties of the heart. It shortens these same fibers ; 2 therefore, it increases 
their strength* in this way too. Hot air, by contrast, relaxes these 
extremities of the fibers and lengthens them; therefore, it decreases 
their strength and their spring. 

Therefore, men are more vigorous in cold climates. The action of 
the heart and the reaction of the extremities of the fibers are in closer 

'This is even visible: in the cold, one appears thinner. 

2 It is known that it shortens iron. 

*We translate force as both “force” and “strength,” as the 
context is more and less abstract. 


Part 3 

accord, the fluids are in a better equilibrium, the blood is pushed 
harder toward the heart and, reciprocally, the heart has more power. 
This greater strength should produce many effects: for example, more 
confidence in oneself, that is, more courage; better knowledge of one’s 
superiority, that is, less desire for vengeance; a higher opinion of one’s 
security, that is, more frankness and fewer suspicions, maneuvers, and 
tricks. Finally, it should make very different characters. Put a man in a 
hot, enclosed spot, and he will suffer, for the reasons just stated, a great 
slackening of heart. If, in the circumstance, one proposes a bold action 
to him, I believe one will find him little disposed toward it; his present 
weakness will induce discouragement in his soul; he will fear every- 
thing, because he will feel he can do nothing. The peoples in hot 
countries are timid like old men; those in cold countries are courageous 
like young men. If we turn our attention to the recent wars , 3 which are 
the ones we can best observe and in which we can better see certain 
slight effects that are imperceptible from a distance, we shall certainly 
feel that the actions of the northern peoples who were sent to southern 
countries 4 were not as fine as the actions of their compatriots who, 
fighting in their own climate, enjoyed the whole of their courage. 

The strength of the fibers of the northern peoples causes them to 
draw the thickest juices from their food. Two things result from this: 
first, that the parts of the chyle, or lymph/ being broad surfaced, are 
more apt to be applied to the fibers and to nourish them; and second, 
that, being coarse, they are less apt to give a certain subtlety to the 
nervous juice. Therefore, these people will have large bodies and little 

The nerves, which end in the tissue of our skin, are made of a sheaf 
of nerves. Ordinarily, it is not the whole nerve that moves, but an 
infinitely small part of it. In hot countries, where the tissue of the skin is 
relaxed, the ends of the nerves are open and exposed to the weakest 
action of the slightest objects. In cold countries, the tissue of the skin is 
contracted and the papillae compressed. The little bunches are in a way 
paralyzed; sensation hardly passes to the brain except when it is 
extremely strong and is of the entire nerve together. But imagination, 

3 The War of the Spanish Succession. 

4 In Spain, for example. 

‘In the eighteenth century these words referred to various body fluids, without the 
precise denotations they have in modem physiology. 


The laws and the climate 

taste, sensitivity, and vivacity depend on an infinite number of small 

I have observed the place on the surface tissue of a sheep’s tongue 
which appears to the naked eye to be covered with papillae. Through a 
microscope, I have seen the tiny hairs, or a kind of down, on these 
papillae; between these papillae were pyramids, forming something 
like little brushes at the ends. It is very likely that these pyramids are the 
principal organ of taste. 

I had half of the tongue frozen; and, with the naked eye I found the 
papillae considerably diminished; some of the rows of papillae had even 
slipped inside their sheaths: I examined the tissue through a micro- 
scope; I could no longer see the pyramids. As the tongue thawed, the 
papillae appeared again to the naked eye, and, under the microscope, 
the little brushes began to reappear. 

This observation confirms what I have said, that, in cold countries, 
the tufts of nerves are less open; they slip inside their sheaths, where 
they are protected from the action of external objects. Therefore, 
sensations are less vivid. 

In cold countries, one will have little sensitivity to pleasures; one will 
have more of it in temperate countries; in hot countries, sensitivity will 
be extreme. As one distinguishes climates by degrees of latitude, one 
can also distinguish them by degrees of sensitivity, so to speak. I have 
seen operas in England and Italy; they are the same plays with the same 
actors: but the same music produces such different effects in the 
people of the two nations that it seems inconceivable, the one so calm 
and the other so transported. 

It will be the same for pain; pain is aroused in us by the tearing of 
some fiber in our body. The author of nature has established that this 
pain is stronger as the disorder is greater; now it is evident that the large 
bodies and coarse fibers of the northern peoples are less capable of 
falling into disorder than the delicate fibers of the peoples of hot 
countries; therefore, the soul is less sensitive to pain. A Muscovite has 
to be flayed before he feels anything. 

With that delicacy of organs found in hot countries, the soul is 
sovereignly moved by all that is related to the union of the two sexes; 
everything leads to this object. 

In northern climates, the physical aspect of love has scarcely enough 
strength to make itself felt; in temperate climates, love, accompanied by 
a thousand accessories, is made pleasant by things that at first seem to 


Part 3 

be love but are still not love; in hotter climates, one likes love for itself; it 
is the sole cause of happiness; it is life. 

In southern climates, a delicate, weak, but sensitive machine gives 
itself up to a love which in a seraglio is constantly aroused and calmed; 
or else to a love which as it leaves women much more independent is 
exposed to a thousand troubles. In northern countries, a healthy and 
well-constituted but heavy machine finds its pleasures in all that can 
start the spirits in motion again: hunting, travels, war, and wine. You 
will find in the northern climates peoples who have few vices, enough 
virtues, and much sincerity and frankness. As you move toward the 
countries of the south, you will believe you have moved away from 
morality itself: the liveliest passions will increase crime; each will seek 
to take from others all the advantages that can favor these same 
passions. In temperate countries, you will see peoples whose manners, 
and even their vices and virtues are inconstant; the climate is not 
sufficiently settled to fix them. 

The heat of the climate can be so excessive that the body there will be 
absolutely without strength. So, prostration will pass even to the spirit; 
no curiosity, no noble enterprise, no generous sentiment; inclinations 
will all be passive there; laziness there will be happiness; most 
chastisements there will be less difficult to bear than the action of the 
soul, and servitude will be less intolerable than the strength of spirit 
necessary to guide one’s own conduct. 


A contradiction in the characters of certain 
peoples of the South 

Indians 5 are by nature without courage; even the children 6 of 
Europeans born in the Indies lose the courage of the European climate. 
But how does this accord with their atrocious actions, their barbaric 

5 (Jean Baptiste] Tavernier says, “A hundred European soldiers would have little difficulty 
routing a thousand Indian soldiers.” [Travels in India-, bk. 2, ch. 9; 1, 391; 1889 edn.] 
6 Even Persians who settle in the Indies take on, in the third generation, the indolence and 
cowardice of the Indians. See [Francois] Bernier, Travels in the Mogul Empire, vol. 1, p. 282 
[“Letter to Colbert concerning Hindustan”; p. 209; 1916 edn]. 


The laws and the climate 

customs and penitences? Men there suffer unbelievable evils; women 
burn themselves: this is considerable strength for so much weakness. 

Nature, which has given these peoples a weakness that makes them 
timid, has also given them such a lively imagination that everything 
strikes them to excess. The same delicacy of organs that makes them 
fear death serves also to make them dread a thousand things more than 
death. The same sensitivity makes the Indians both flee all perils and 
brave them all. 

As a good education is more necessary to children than to those of 
mature spirit, so the peoples of these climates have greater need of a 
wise legislator than the peoples of our own. The more easily and 
forcefully one is impressed, the more important it is to be impressed in 
a suitable manner, to accept no prejudices, and to be led by reason. 

In the time of the Romans, the peoples of northern Europe lived 
without arts, without education, almost without laws, and still, with only 
the good sense connected with the coarse fibers of these climates, they 
maintained themselves with remarkable wisdom against the Roman 
power until they came out of their forests to destroy it. 


The cause of the immutability of religion, mores, manners, 
and laws in the countries of the east 

If you join the weakness of organs that makes the peoples of the East 
receive the strongest impressions in the world to a certain laziness of 
the spirit, naturally bound with that of the body, which makes that spirit 
incapable of any action, any effort, any application, you will understand 
that the soul can no longer alter impressions once it has received them. 
This is why laws, mores , 7 and manners, even those that seem not to 
matter, like the fashion in clothing, remain in the East today as they 
were a thousand years ago. 

7 In a fragment from Nicholas of Damascus, in the collection of Constantine Porphyro- 
genitus, one sees that it was an ancient custom in the East to send someone to strangle a 
governor who displeased; this dates from the times of the Medes. [Nicholas of Damascus, 
Fragments , #66.26; FGrH; 2A, 366-367.] 


Part 3 

chapter 5 

That bad legislators are those who have favored the vices of 
the climate and good ones are those who have opposed them 

Indians believe that rest and nothingness are the foundation of all 
things and the end to which they lead. Therefore, they consider total 
inaction as the most perfect state and the object of their desires. They 
give to the sovereign being 8 the title of the unmoving one. The Siamese 
believe that the supreme felicity 9 consists in not being obliged to 
animate a machine or to make a body act. 

In these countries where excessive heat enervates and overwhelms, 
rest is so delicious and movement so painful that this system of 
metaphysics appears natural; and Foe , 10 legislator of the Indies, 
followed his feelings when he put men in an extremely passive state; but 
his doctrine, bom of idleness of the climate, favoring it in turn, has 
caused a thousand ills. 

The legislators of China were more sensible when, as they con- 
sidered men not in terms of the peaceful state in which they will one day 
be but in terms of the action proper to making them fulfill the duties of 
life, they made their religion, philosophy, and laws all practical. The 
more the physical causes incline men to rest, the more the moral causes 
should divert them from it. 

g Panamanack. See [Athanasius] Kirch er [La Chine illustree, pt. 3, chap. 6; p. 215; 1670 

9 [Simon de] la Loubere, The Kingdom of Siam, p. 446 [pt. 3, chap. 22; p. 129; 1969 edn], 

10 Foe wants to reduce the heart to pure emptiness. “We have eyes and ears, but perfection 
consists in not seeing or hearing; perfection, for those members, the mouth, hands, etc., is 
to be inactive.” This is taken from the “Dialog of a Chinese Philosopher,” reported by 
Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de {’Empire de la Chine\, vol. 3 [3, 59 H; 3, 49 P; 
3, 268 L], 


On the cultivation of land in hot climates 

The cultivation of land is the greatest labor of men. The more their 
climate inclines them to flee this labor, the more their religion and laws 
should rouse them to it. Thus, the laws of the Indies, which give the 


The laws and the climate 

lands to the princes and take away from individuals the spirit of 
ownership, increase the bad effects of the climate, that is, natural 


On monasticism 

Monasticism causes the same evils there; it was bom in the hot eastern 
countries where one is given to action less than to speculation. 

In Asia the number of dervishes, or monks, seems to increase with 
the heat of the climate; the Indies, where it is extremely hot, are full of 
them; one finds the same difference in Europe. 

In order to conquer the laziness that comes from the climate, the 
laws must seek to take away every means of living without labor, but in 
southern Europe they do the opposite: they give to those who want to be 
idle places proper for the speculative life, and attach immense wealth to 
those places. These people who live in an abundance that is burden- 
some to them correcdy give their excess to the common people: the 
common people have lost the ownership of goods; the people are repaid 
for it by the idleness they enjoy and they come to love their very poverty. 


A good custom in China 

The accounts 11 of China tell us of the ceremony that the emperor 
performs every year to open the cultivation of the fields . 12 By this public 
and solemn act one has wanted to rouse 13 the peoples to their plowing. 

"Father (Jean Baptiste] du Halde, Description de {’Empire de la Chine, vol. 2, p. 72 [“De la 
fertilite des terres”; 2, 70-71 P; 2, 81-84 H; 2, 1 20-1 23 L]. 

12 A number of the kings in the Indies do the same thing. The Kingdom of Siam, by {Simon de] 
la Loubere, p. 69 [pt. 1, chap. 8; p. 20; 1969 edn]. 

13 Ven-ti, third emperor of the fifth dynasty, cultivated the land with his own hands, and had 
the empress and her women make silk in the palace. [J ean Baptiste du Halde] Description de 
I'Empiredela Chine, [“Ven Ti, 3rd emperor, 5th Dynasty”; 1, 380 P; 1, 350 H; 1, 349 L], 


Part 3 

Moreover, each year the emperor is informed of the plowman who 
has most distinguished himself in his profession; he makes him a 
mandarin of the eighth order. 

Among the ancient Persians, 14 on the eighth day of the month named 
Chorem ruz the kings would lay aside their pomp and eat with the 
plowmen. These institutions are remarkable for encouraging 

14 [Thomas] Hyde, Historia religionis veterum Persarum in Sad-der [chap. 19; pp. 253-254; 
1700 edn). 


A means of encouraging industriousness 

I shall show in Book 19 that, ordinarily, lazy nations are arrogant. One 
could turn effect against cause and destroy laziness by arrogance. In 
southern Europe, where peoples are so impressed by the point of 
honor, it would be well to give prizes to the plowmen who had best 
cultivated their lands and to the workers who had been most 
industrious. This practice will succeed in every country. In our time it 
has been used in Ireland to establish one of the largest textile mills in 


On laws related to the sobriety of peoples 

In hot countries, perspiration dissipates much of the watery part of the 
blood; 15 a like liquid must therefore be substituted for it. Water is 
remarkably useful for this; alcoholic beverages there would coagulate 

15 Mr. Bernier, traveling from Lahore to Kashmir, wrote: “My body is a sieve; scarcely do 1 
swallow a pint of water than I see it come out like a dew from all my members, including my 
fingertips; 1 drink ten pints a day and it does me no harm.” [Francois] Bernier, Travels in 
the Mogul Empire,\o\. 2, p. 261 [“Journey to Kachemire, Sixth Letter”; p. 388; 1916 edn]. 


The laws and the climate 

the globules 16 of blood that remain after the dissipation of the watery- 

In cold countries, perspiration releases little of the watery part of the 
blood; it remains in abundance; therefore one can use spirits there 
without making the blood coagulate. One is full of humors there; 
alcoholic beverages, which give motion to the blood, are suitable. 

The law of Mohammed that prohibits the drinking of wine is, 
therefore, a law of the climate of Arabia; thus, before Mohammed, 
water was the ordinary drink of the Arabs. The law 17 that prohibits the 
Carthaginians from drinking wine was also a law of the climate; in 
effect, the climate of these two countries is about the same. 

Such a law would not be good in cold countries, where the climate 
seems to force a certain drunkenness of the nation quite different from 
drunkenness of the person. Drunkenness is found established around 
the world in proportion to the cold and dampness of the climate. As you 
go from the equator to our pole, you will see drunkenness increase with 
the degree of latitude. As you go from the same equator to the opposite 
pole, you will find drunkenness to the south , 18 as on our side to the 

It is natural that excess should be more severely punished where 
wine is contrary to the climate and consequently to health than in 
countries where drunkenness has few ill effects for the person, few for 
the society, and does not make men frenzied, but only dull witted. 
Thus, the laws 19 that punished a drunken man both for the error 
committed and for drunkenness were applicable only to drunkenness 
of the person and not to drunkenness of the nation. A German drinks 
by custom, a Spaniard by choice. 

In hot countries, relaxation of the fibers produces a great perspir- 
ation of liquids, but solids dissipate less. The fibers, which have only a 
very weak action and little spring, are scarcely used; little nutritious 
juice is needed to repair them; thus, one eats little there. 

The differing needs of differing climates have formed differing ways 

l6 In the blood there are red globules, fibrous particles, white globules, and the water in 
which all this swims. 

17 Plato, Laws, bk. 2 [674a]; Aristotle, Oeconomica [1344333-34]; Eusebius, Praeparationes 
evangelicae,bk. 12, chap. 17 [12. 25.1; 5984!]. 

18 This is seen among the Hottentots and the peoples at the tip of Chile, who are further to 
the south. 

19 Like those of Pittacus, according to Aristotle, Pol . , bk. 2, chap. 3 [1274b! 8-23]. He lived 
in a climate in which drunkenness is not a vice of the nation. 


Part 3 

of living, and these differing ways of living have formed the various 
sorts of laws. If men communicate much with each other in a nation, 
there must be certain laws; there must be others for a people where 
there is no communication. 


On the laws relating to diseases from the climate 

Herodotus 20 tells us that the laws of the Jews about leprosy were drawn 
from the practice of the Egyptians. Indeed, the same diseases required 
the same cures. These laws, as well as the illness, were unknown to the 
Greeks and the first Romans. The climate of Egypt and Palestine made 
these laws necessary, and the ease with which this disease spread 
should make us feel clearly the wisdom and foresight of such laws. 

We ourselves have suffered the effects of disease. The Crusades 
brought us leprosy; wise rulings were made that prevented it from 
spreading to the mass of the people. 

One sees in the Law of the Lombards 21 that this disease was 
widespread in Italy before the Crusades and deserved the attention of 
legislators. Rotharis ordered that a leper driven from his house and 
kept in a particular spot could not make disposition of his goods, 
because he was presumed dead from the moment he was taken from his 
house. In order to prevent any communication with lepers, they were 
not allowed to have any possessions/ 

I think that this disease was brought to Italy by the conquests of the 
Greek emperors, whose armies may have included militia from 
Palestine or Egypt. Whatever the case, its progress was checked until 
the time of the Crusades. 

It is said that Pompey’s soldiers, on returning from Syria, brought 
back a disease somewhat like leprosy. No regulation made at that time 
has come down to us, but it is likely that there were some, for this ill was 
checked until the time of the Lombards. 

20 [Herodotus, The Persian Wars\ bk. 2. [Herodotus nowhere mentions the Hebrews, but 
consider 1.138 (9) for Persian customs concerning leprosy; consider also Leviticus 4.22, 
3 °-l 

21 [Leges Langobardorum\bk. 2, tit. 1, para. 3 [Roth. 180] and bk. 2, tit. 18, para. 1 [Roth. 176]. 

d effets civils. 


The lam and the climate 

Two centuries ago, a disease unknown to our fathers traveled from 
the New World to this one and came to attack human nature at the very 
source of life and pleasures. Most of the important families of southern 
Europe were afflicted by a disease that became so common that it was 
no longer shameful and was merely deadly. It was the thirst for gold that 
perpetuated this disease; men continued their voyages to America and 
brought back new leaven of it each time they returned. 

For reasons of piety one wanted to let this be the punishment of the 
crime, but the disaster had entered marriages and had already corrup- 
ted childhood itself. 

As it is in the wisdom of legislators to keep watch over the health of 
the citizens, it would have been very sensible to check the spread of the 
disease by laws made on the plan of the Mosaic laws. 

The plague is an evil whose ravages are even more prompt and rapid. 
Its principal seat is in Egypt, from which it spreads over the universe. In 
most of the states of Europe very good regulations have been made to 
prevent its entry, and in our times a remarkable means has been devised 
to check it; a line of troops is formed around the infected country, 
which prevents communication of the disease. 

The Turks , 22 who have no police on these matters, see Christians in 
the same town escape the danger and themselves alone perish. They 
buy the clothing of those stricken by the plague, wear it, and go their 
way. The doctrine of a rigid destiny ruling all makes the magistrate a 
tranquil spectator; he thinks that god has already done everything and 
that he himself has nothing to do. 

22 [Paul] Rycaut, The History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 284 [bk. 2, chap. 6; p. 
46; 1703 edn]. 


On laws against those who kill themselves 23 

We see in the histories that the Romans did not inflict death on 
themselves without cause, but the English resolve to kill themselves 
when one can imagine no reason for their decisions; they kill them- 
selves in the very midst of happiness. Among the Romans, the act was 

23 The act of those who kill themselves is contrary to natural law and to revealed religion. 


the consequence of education; it comes from their way of thinking and 
their customs: among the English, it is the effect of an illness ; 24 it comes 
from the physical state of the machine and is independent of any other 

It is likely that there is a failure in the filtering of the nervous juice; 
the machine, when the forces that give it motion stay inactive, wearies 
of itself; it is not pain the soul feels but a certain difficulty in existence. 
Pain is a local ill which inclines us to the desire to see this pain cease; 
the weight of life is an illness having no particular place, which inclines 
us to the desire to see this life end. 

It is clear that the civil laws of some countries have had reasons to 
stigmatize the murder of oneself, but in England one can no more 
punish it than one can punish the effects of madness. 

24 It could well be complicated by scurvy, which, especially in some countries, makes a man 
eccentric and intolerable to himself. Francois Pyrard, Voyages, pt. 2, chap. 21 [vol. 2, pt. 2; 
3, 391; 1887-1889 edn). 


Effects resulting from the climate of England 

In a nation whose soul is so affected by an illness of climate that it could 
carry the repugnance for all things to include that of life, one sees that 
the most suitable government for people to whom everything can be 
intolerable would be the one in which they could not be allowed to 
blame any one person for causing their sorrows, and in which, as laws 
rather than men would govern, the laws themselves must be over- 
thrown in order to change the state. 

For if the same nation had also received from the climate a certain 
characteristic of impatience that did not permit it to tolerate the same 
things for long, it can be seen that the government of which we have just 
spoken would still be the most suitable. 

The characteristic of impatience is not serious in itself, but it can 
become very much so when it is joined to courage. 

It is different from fickleness, which makes one undertake things 
without purpose and abandon them likewise. It is nearer to obstinacy 
because it comes from a feeling of ills which is so lively that it is not 
weakened even by the habit of tolerating them. 

The laws and the climate 

In a free nation, this characteristic would be one apt to frustrate the 
projects of tyranny , 25 which is always slow and weak in its beginnings, 
just as it is prompt and lively at its end, which shows at first only a hand 
extended in aid, and later oppresses with an infinity of arms. 

Servitude always begins with drowsiness. But a people who rest in no 
situation, who constantly pinch themselves to find the painful spots, 
could scarcely fall asleep. 

Politics is a dull rasp which by slowly grinding away gains its end. 
Now the men of whom we have just spoken could not support the 
delays, the details and the coolness of negotiations; they would often 
succeed in them less well than any other nation, and they would lose by 
their treaties what they had gained by their weapons. 

25 1 take this word to mean the design of upsetting the established power, chiefly democracy. 
This was its meaning for the Greeks and Romans. 


Other effects of the climate 

Our fathers, the ancient Germans, lived in a climate where the passions 
were calm. Their laws found in things only what they saw, and they 
imagined nothing more. And just as these laws judged insults to men by 
the size of the wounds, they put no greater refinement in the offenses to 
women. The Law of the Alemanni 26 on this point is quite singular. If 
one exposes a woman’s head, one will pay a fine of six sous; it is the 
same for exposing a leg up to the knee; double above the knee. The law, 
it seems, measured the size of the outrages done a woman’s person as 
one measures a geometric figure; the law did not punish the crime of 
the imagination, it punished that of the eyes. But when a Germanic 
nation moved to Spain, the climate required quite different laws. The 
laws of the Visigoths prohibited doctors from bleeding a freeborn 
woman except in the presence of her father or mother, her brother, her 
son, or her uncle. The imagination of the peoples was fired, that of the 
legislators was likewise ignited; the law suspected everything in a 
people capable of suspecting everything. 

Therefore, these laws gave an extreme attention to the two sexes. 

lb [Leges Alamannorum] chap. 58, paras. 1-2 [A56.1-2; B58.1-2]. 


Part 3 

But it seems that in their punishing they thought more of gratifying 
individual vengeance than of exercising public vengeance. Thus, in 
most cases they reduced the two guilty ones to the servitude of their 
relatives or of the offended husband. A freeborn woman 27 who had 
given herself to a married man was put into the power of his wife, to 
do with as she wanted. These laws required that slaves 28 bind up and 
present to the husband his wife whom they had caught in adultery; they 
permitted her children 29 to accuse her, and they permitted torturing 
her slaves in order to convict her. Thus these laws were more proper 
for the excessive refinement of a certain point of honor than for the 
formation of a good police. And one must not be astonished if Count 
Julian believed an outrage of this kind required the loss of one’s country 
or of one’s king. One should not be surprised that the Moors, whose 
mores were so similar, found it so easy to establish themselves in Spain, 
to maintain themselves there, and to delay the fall of their empire. 

21 Lex Wisigothorum, bk. 3, tit. 4, para. 9 {3.4.9]. 

28 Ibid. [Lex Wisigothorum], bk. 3, tit. 4, para. 6 [3.4.6]. 

29 Ibid. [Lex Wisigothorum], bk. 3, tit. 4, para. 13 (3.4.13]. 


On the differing trust the lam have in people according to 
the climate 

The Japanese people have such an atrocious character that their 
legislators and magistrates have not been able to place any trust in 
them; they have set before the eyes of the people only judges, threats, 
and chastisements; they have subjected them at every step to the 
inquisition of the police. These laws that establish, in every five heads 
of families, one as magistrate over the other four, these laws that punish 
a whole family or a whole neighborhood for a single crime, these laws 
that find no innocent men where there can be a guilty one, are made so 
that all men distrust one another, so that each scrutinizes the conduct 
of the other, and so that each is his own inspector, witness, and judge. 

On the other hand, the people of the Indies are gentle , 30 tender, and 

30 See [Francois] Bernier [ Travels in the Mogul Empire ], vol. 2, p. 140 [“History of the States 
of the Great Mogul”; p. 99, 1916 edn]. 


The lams and the climate 

compassionate. Thus, their legislators have put great trust in them. 
They have established few penalties , 31 and these are not very severe or 
even strictly executed. They have given nephews to uncles and orphans 
to guardians, as elsewhere they are given to their fathers; they have 
regulated inheritance by the recognized merit of the heir. It seems they 
have thought that each citizen should rely on the natural goodness of 
the others. 

They easily give liberty 32 to their slaves; they marry them; they treat 
them like their children : 33 happy is the climate that gives birth to candor 
in mores and produces gendeness in laws! 

3 1 See Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, vol. 1 4, p. 403 [Lettre du P. Bouchet, Pontichery, October 
2, 1714; 14, 402-404; 1720 edn] for the principal laws or customs of the peoples of India 
on the peninsula this side of the Ganges. 

32 Vol. 9 of the Lettres edifiantes et curieuses , p. 378 [Lettre du P. Bouchet, 9, 37; 1730 edn). 

33 1 had thought that the gendeness of slavery in the Indies had made Diodurus say that in 
this country there was neither master nor slave, but Diodorus attributed to the whole of 
India what, according to Strabo [Geograpkica], bk. 15 [15. 1.54], was proper only to a 
particular nation. 


BOOK 15 

How the laws of civil slavery are related 
with the nature of the climate 


On civil slavery 

Slavery in its proper sense is the establishment of a right which makes 
one man so much the owner of another man that he is the absolute 
master of his life and of his goods. It is not good by its nature; it is useful 
neither to the master nor to the slave: not to the slave, because he can 
do nothing from virtue; not to the master, because he contracts all sorts 
of bad habits from his slaves, because he imperceptibly grows 
accustomed to failing in all the moral virtues, because he grows proud, 
curt, harsh, angry, voluptuous, and cruel. 

In despotic countries, where one is already in political slavery, civil 
slavery is more bearable than elsewhere. Each one there should be 
satisfied to have his sustenance and his life. Thus, the condition of the 
slave is scarcely more burdensome than the condition of the subject. 

But in monarchical government, where it is sovereignly important 
neither to beat down nor to debase human nature, there must be no 
slaves. In democracy, where everyone is equal, and in aristocracy, 
where the laws should put their effort into making everyone as equal as 
the nature of the government can permit, slaves are contrary to the 
spirit of the constitution; they serve only to give citizens a power and a 
luxury they should not have. 

The laws of civil slavery 


The origin of the right of slavery according to 
the Roman jurists a 

One would never believe that pity established slavery and that in order 
to do so it went about it in three ways . 1 

The right of nations wanted prisoners to become slaves so that they 
would not be killed. The civil right of the Romans permitted debtors 
whose creditors might have mistreated them to sell themselves; and 
natural right wanted the children of an enslaved father who was no 
longer able to feed them to be enslaved like their father. 

These reasons of the jurists are not sensible. It is false that killing in 
war is permissible except in the case of necessity; but, when a man has 
made another man his slave, it cannot be said that he had of necessity to 
kill him, since he did not do so. The only right that war can give over 
captives is that they may be imprisoned so that they can no longer do 
harm. Murdering in cold blood by soldiers after the heat of the action is 
condemned by all the nations of the world . 2 

2. It is not true that a freeman can sell himself. A sale assumes a 
price; if the slave sold himself, all his goods would become the property 
of the master; therefore, the master would give nothing and the slave 
would receive nothing. He would have some savings, one will say, but 
the savings are attached to the person. If it is not permitted to kill 
oneself because one will be lost to one’s homeland, no more is it 
permitted to sell oneself. The liberty of each citizen is a part of the 
public liberty. This status in the popular state is also a part of 
sovereignty. To sell one’s status as a citizen* is an act of such 
extravagance 3 that one cannot suppose a man would do it. If liberty has 
a price for the one who buys it, it is priceless for the one who sells it. 
Civil law, which has permitted the division of goods among men, could 
not have put among those goods some of the men who were to take part 
in the division. Civil law, which makes restitution in contracts that 

' [Corpus Juris Ctvilis] Institutes, bk. i [ 1 . 3 ; de jure personarum], 

2 Unless one wants to mention those who eat their prisoners. 

3 1 speak of slavery in the strict sense, such as it was among the Romans and as it is 
established in our colonies. 

d By the Roman jurists M. means the views expressed in the corpus juris civilis. 
* qualite de citoyen. 


Part 3 

contain some injury, cannot keep from making restitution for an 
agreement that contains the most enormous of all injuries. 

The third way is birth. This falls along with the other two. For, if a 
man cannot sell himself, even less can he sell a man who has not been 
bom; if a prisoner of war cannot be reduced to servitude, still less can 
his children. 

What makes the death of a criminal lawful is that the law punishing 
him was made in his favor. A murderer, for example, has enjoyed the 
law that condemns him; it has preserved his life at every moment; 
therefore, he cannot make a claim against it. It is not the same with the 
slave; the law of slavery has never been useful to him; it is against him in 
every case, without ever being for him, which is contrary to the 
fundamental principle of all societies. 

One will say that the law has been useful to the slave because the 
master has nourished him. Therefore, those persons incapable of 
earning their living must be reduced to servitude. But one does not 
want such slaves as these. As for children, nature, which has given milk 
to mothers, has provided for their nourishment, and the remainder of 
their childhood is so nearly at the age when they have the greatest 
ability to make themselves useful, that one could not say that he who 
had nourished them, even though he was their master, had given them 

Moreover, slavery is as opposed to civil right as to natural right. What 
civil law could keep a slave from flight, since he is not in society and, 
consequently, civil laws are not his concern? He can be restrained only 
by a family law, that is, by the law of the master. 


Another origin of the right of slavery 

I would as soon say that the right of slavery comes from the scorn that 
one nation conceives for another, founded on the difference in 

Lopez de Gomara 4 says that “the Spanish found, close to Sainte- 

4 Bibliotheque anglaise, vol. 13, pt. 2, art. 3. [Gomara is quoted in a review of Hans Sloane’s/i 
Voyage to the Islands of Madera [«V]» Barbados, Nieves, St. Christopher 's, and Jamaica, pp. 399- 
440 of the Bibliotheque ; the Gomara quotation is on pp. 425-426 of the Bibliotheque. It can 


The laws of civil slavery 

Marie, baskets in which the inhabitants had put produce; there were 
crabs, snails, crickets, and grasshoppers. The victors treated this as a 
crime in the vanquished.” The author claims that the right that made 
the Americans slaves of the Spanish was founded on this, not to 
mention the fact that they smoked tobacco and that they did not cut 
their beards in the Spanish fashion. 

Knowledge makes men gentle, and reason inclines toward human- 
ity; only prejudices cause these to be renounced. 

be found in Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Historic general de las Indias, chap. 7 1 , “Santa 
Marta,” 1, 168-171; 1932 edn.] 


Another origin of the right of slavery 

I would as soon say that religion gives to those who profess it a right to 
reduce to servitude those who do not profess it, in order to work more 
easily for its propagation. 

It was this way of thinking that encouraged the destroyers of America 
in their crimes . 5 On this idea they founded the right of making so many 
peoples slaves; for these brigands, who absolutely wanted to be both 
brigands and Christians, were very devout. 

Louis XIII 6 was extremely pained by the law making slaves of the 
Negroes in his colonies, but when it had been brought fully to his mind 
that this was the surest way to convert them, he consented to it. 

s See the history of the conquest of Mexico by [Antoine de] Solis [y Rivadeneyra] [History of 
the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards ] , and that of Peru, by Garcilaso de la Vega [El Inca, 
Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru). 

6 [Jean Baptiste] Labat, Nouveau voyage aux isles de VAmerique, vol. 4, p. 1 14, 1722 edn 
[pt. 4, chap. 7, p. 38; 1698 edn]. 


Part 3 

chapter 5 

On the slavery of Negroes 

If I had to defend the right we had of making Negroes slaves, here is 
what I would say: 

The peoples of Europe, having exterminated those of America, had 
to make slaves of those of Africa in order to use them to clear so much 

Sugar would be too expensive if the plant producing it were not 
cultivated by slaves. 

Those concerned are black from head to toe, and they have such flat 
noses that it is almost impossible to feel sorry for them. 

One cannot get into one’s mind that god, who is a very wise being, 
should have put a soul, above all a good soul, in a body that was entirely 

It is so natural to think that color constitutes the essence of humanity 
that the peoples of Asia who make eunuchs continue to deprive blacks 
of their likeness to us in a more distinctive way. 

One can judge the color of the skin by the color of the hair, which, 
among the Egyptians, who are the best philosophers in the world, was 
of such great consequence that they had all the red-haired men who fell 
into their hands put to death. 

A proof that Negroes do not have common sense is that they make 
more of a glass necklace than of one of gold, which is of such great 
consequence among nations having a police. 

It is impossible for us to assume that these people are men because if 
we assumed they were men one would begin to believe that we 
ourselves were not Christians. 

Petty spirits exaggerate too much the injustice done the Africans. 
For, if it were as they say, would it not have occurred to the princes of 
Europe, who make so many useless agreements with one another, to 
make a general one in favor of mercy and pity? 


The laws of civil slavery 

chapter 6 

The true origin of the right of slavery 

It is time to seek the true origin of the right of slavery. It should be 
founded on the nature of things; let us see if there are cases where it 
does derive from it. 

In every despotic government, it is very easy to sell oneself; there 
political slavery more or less annihilates civil liberty. 

Mr. Perry 7 says that the Muscovites sell themselves easily: I know the 
reason well; it is because their liberty is worth nothing. 

In Achim everyone seeks to sell himself. Some of the principal lords 
have no fewer than a thousand slaves , 8 who are the principal mer- 
chants, who also have many slaves under them, and these latter many 
others; they are inherited and there is a traffic in them. In these states, 
the freemen, who are too weak to oppose the government, seek to 
become the slaves of those who tyrannize the government. 

Here lies the just origin, the one conforming to reason, of the very 
gentle right of slavery that one sees in some countries, and it has to be 
gentle because it is founded on the free choice of a master, a choice a 
man makes for his own utility and which forms a reciprocal agreement 
between the two parties. 

7 John Perry, The State of Russia under the Present Czar (Paris, 1717)- [Perry describes all 
Russians as slaves to the Czar; perhaps M. has in mind pp. 258-260; 1967 edn.] 
8 William Dampier, Voyages, vol. 3 (Amsterdam, 171 1) [vol. 2, pt. 1, chap. 7; 2, 67; 1906 


Another origin of the right of slavery 

Here is another origin of the right of slavery and even of that cruel 
slavery seen among men. 

There are countries where the heat enervates the body and weakens 
the courage so much that men come to perform an arduous duty only 
from fear of chastisement; slavery there runs less counter to reason, 
and as the master is as cowardly before his prince as his slave is before 
him, civil slavery there is again accompanied by political slavery. 


Aristotle 9 wants to prove that there are slaves by nature, and what he 
says scarcely proves it. I believe that, if there are any such, they are 
those whom I have just mentioned. 

But, as all men are born equal, one must say that slavery is against 
nature, although in certain countries it may be founded on a natural 
reason, and these countries must be distinguished from those in which 
even natural reasons reject it, as in the countries of Europe where it has 
so fortunately been abolished. 

Plutarch tells us in the life of Numa that there was neither master nor 
slave in the age of Saturn/ In our climates, Christianity has brought 
back that age. 

9 [Aristotle], Pol., bk. i,chap. i [1254317-125532]. 

'See Plutarch, Comp, Lycurgus and Numa, 1.5. 


Uselessness of slavery among ourselves 

Therefore, natural slavery must be limited to certain particular 
countries of the world. In all the others, it seems to me that everything 
can be done by freemen, however arduous the work that society 

What makes me think this is that before Christianity had abolished 
civil servitude in Europe, work in the mines was regarded as so arduous 
that one believed it could be done only by slaves or criminals. But today 
one knows that men employed there live happily . 10 One has encour- 
aged this profession by small privileges; to an increase in work one has 
joined an increase in gain, and one has come to make them love their 
condition more than any other they could have assumed. 

There is no work so arduous that one cannot adjust it to the strength 
of the one who does it, provided that reason and not avarice regulates it. 
With the convenience of machines invented or applied by art, one can 
replace the forced labor that elsewhere is done by slaves. The mines of 

I0 One can leam what happens in this respect in the mines of the Ham in lower Saxony and 
in those of Hungary. 

The laws of civil slavery 

the Turks, in the Province of Timisuara/ were richer than those in 
Hungary, but they did not produce as much because the imagination of 
the Turks never went beyond the brawn of their slaves. 

I do not know if my spirit or my heart dictates this point. Perhaps 
there is no climate on earth where one could not engage freemen to 
work. Because the laws were badly made, lazy men appeared; because 
these men were lazy, they were enslaved. 

^In present-day Rumania. 


On nations among whom civil liberty is generally 

Every day one hears it said that it would be good if there were slaves 
among us. 

But, to judge this, one must not examine whether they would be 
useful to the small, rich, and voluptuous part of each nation; doubtless 
they would be useful to it; but, taking another point of view, I do not 
believe that any one of those who make it up would want to draw lots to 
know who was to form the part of the nation that would be free and the 
one that would be enslaved. Those who most speak in favor of slavery 
would hold it the most in horror, and the poorest of men would likewise 
find it horrible. Therefore, the cry for slavery is the cry of luxury and 
voluptuousness, and not that of the love of public felicity. Who can 
doubt that each man, individually, would not be quite content to be the 
master of the goods, the honor, and the life of others and that all his 
passions would not be awakened at once at this idea? Do you want to 
know whether the desires of each are legitimate in these things? 
Examine the desires of all. 


Part 3 


The various kinds of slavery 

There are two sorts of slavery: real and personal. The real one is the 
one that attaches the slave to the land. Such were the slaves among the 
Germans, so Tacitus relates . 11 They held no office in the household; 
they returned a certain quantity of grain, livestock, or cloth to their 
master; the purpose of their slavery went no further. This kind of 
servitude is still established in Hungary, Bohemia, and several places in 
southern Germany. 

The concern of personal servitude is service in the household, and it 
relates more to the person of the master. 

Extreme abuses of slavery occur when it is personal and real at the 
same time. Such was the servitude of the Helots among the 
Lacedaemonians; they were subjected to all the work outside the 
household and to all sorts of insults within the household: this helotism 
is contrary to the nature of things. Simple peoples have only real 
slavery 12 because their women and children do the domestic work. 
Voluptuous peoples have personal slavery, because luxury requires the 
service of slaves in the house. Now, helotism unites in the same persons 
the slavery established among voluptuous peoples and the one 
established among simple peoples. 

“[Tacitus] Germania [25 J. 

l2 Tacitus [Germania, 20] says, “You could not distinguish master from siave bv the delights 
of life.” 


What the laws ought to do in relation to slavery 

But whatever the nature of slavery, civil laws must seek to remove, on 
the one hand, its abuses, and on the other, its dangers. 


The lam of civil slavery 


The abuse of slavery 

In the Mohammedan states , 13 one is not only the master of the life and 
goods of the female slaves, but also of what is called their virtue or their 
honor. One of the misfortunes of these countries is that the larger part 
of the nation exists only in order to serve the voluptuousness of the 
other. This servitude is rewarded by the laziness that such slaves are 
given to enjoy, which is yet another misfortune for the state. 

This laziness makes the seraglios of the East 14 delightful places even 
for those against whom they are made. People who fear only work can 
find their happiness in these tranquil places. But one sees that in this 
way one runs counter even to the spirit in which slavery is established. 

Reason wants the power of the master not to extend beyond things 
that are of service to him; slavery must be for utility and not for 
voluptuousness. The laws of modesty are a part of natural right and 
should be felt by all the nations in the world. 

For if the law that preserves the modesty of slaves is good in these 
states where unlimited power mocks everything, how good will it be in 
monarchies, how good in republican states? 

A provision of the law of the Lombards 15 seems good for all 
governments. “If a master debauches the wife of his slave, both of them 
will be free.” This tempering is admirable for preventing and checking 
the incontinence of masters without too much severity. 

I do not see that the Romans had a good police in this regard. They 
gave rein to the incontinence of masters; in a way they even deprived 
their slaves of the right of marriage. The slaves were the meanest part 
of the nation, but mean as they were, it was good for them to have 
mores, and further, by denying them marriages, one corrupted the 
marriages of the citizens. 

!3 See (John) Chardin, Voyages en Perse et autres lieux de I'Orient [“Voyage de Paris a Ispahan”; 
2, 224; 1 8 1 1 ednj. 

H See [John] Chardin [ Voyages en Pene et autres lieux de I’Orient }, vol. 2, “Description du 
marche d’Isagour” (“Voyage de Paris a Ispahan”; 1, 345-347; 18 1 1 edn]. 

15 [Leges Langobardorum] bk. 1, tit. 32, para. 5 [Liut. 140). 


Part 3 


The danger of a large number of slaves 

Having a large number of slaves has different effects in the various 
governments. It is not a burden in despotic government; political 
slavery, established in the body of the state, makes civil slavery little felt. 
Those who are called freemen are scarcely more free than those 
without this status; and as these latter, whether eunuchs, freed men, or 
slaves, have almost all matters of business in their hands, the condition 
of a freeman and that of a slave are nearly alike. It is almost indifferent 
whether few or many people there live in slavery. 

But in moderate states, it is very important not to have too many 
slaves. Political liberty makes civil liberty precious, and the one who is 
deprived of the latter is also deprived of the former. He sees a happy 
society of which he is not even a part; he finds security established for 
others and not for himself; he feels that his master’s soul can expand, 
and that his own soul is constantly constrained to sink. Nothing brings 
the condition of the beasts closer than always to see freemen and not to 
be one. Such people are the natural enemies of society, and it would be 
dangerous for them to be numerous. 

Therefore, one must not be astonished that in moderate govern- 
ments the state has been so disturbed by the rebellion of slaves and that 
this has happened so rarely 16 in despotic states. 

16 The rebellion of the Mamelukes was a particular case: they were a body of militia which 
usurped the empire. 


On armed slaves 

It is less dangerous to arm slaves in a monarchy than in republics. 
There a warrior people, a body of nobility, will sufficiently contain 
armed slaves. In a republic, men who are citizens will scarcely be able to 
contain people who, bearing arms, are the equals of the citizens. 

The Goths who conquered Spain scattered throughout the country 
and soon were very weak. They made three noteworthy regulations: 


The laws of civil slavery 

they abolished the former custom that prohibited them from allying 
themselves with the Romans through marriage ; 17 they established that 
all those freed from the fisc would go to war on pain of being reduced to 
servitude ; 18 they ordered that each Goth would lead to war and arm a 
tenth of his slaves . 19 This number was not very large by comparison 
with the number who remained. In addition, these slaves led to war by 
their master did not make up a separate body; they were in the army and 
remained, so to speak, in the family. 

11 Lex Wisigothorum , bk. 3, tit. 1, para. 1 £3.1.1]. 

18 Ibid. [Lex Wisigothorum], bk. 5, tit. 7, para. 20 [5.7.20]. 

i9 Ibid. [Lex Wisigothorum], bk. 9, tit. 1, para. 9 [9.2.9]. 


Continuation of the same subject 

When all in the nation are warriors, armed slaves are to be feared even 

By the law of the Alemanni, a slave who stole something that had 
been put down 20 was subject to the penalty one would have inflicted on 
a freeman, but, if he took it by violence , 21 he was obliged only to restore 
the stolen thing. Among the Alemanni, actions whose principle was 
courage and strength were not odious. They made use of their slaves in 
their wars. In most republics, one has always sought to beat down the 
courage of the slaves; the Alemanni, sure of themselves, thought of 
increasing the audacity of their own; always armed, they feared nothing 
from the slaves; these were the instruments of their brigandage or of 
their glory. 

20 Leges Alamannorum, chap. 5, para. 3 [B5.3]. 

21 Ibid. [Leges Alamannorum], chap. 5, para. 5 [B5.3], pervirtutem: “by strength.” 


Part 3 

chapter 16 

Precautions to take in moderate governments 

In the moderate state, the humanity one has for slaves will be able to 
prevent the dangers one could fear from there being too many of them. 
Men grow accustomed to anything, even to servitude, provided the 
master is not harsher than the servitude. The Athenians treated their 
slaves with great gentleness; one sees that the slaves did not disturb the 
state in Athens, whereas they shook it in Lacedaemonia. 

One sees that the first Romans were not at all uneasy about their 
slaves. It was when they had lost every feeling of humanity for them that 
one saw arise those slave wars that have been compared to the Punic 
Wars . 22 

Simple nations who are attached to work are ordinarily gentler 
toward their slaves than those who have renounced work. The first 
Romans lived, worked, and ate with their slaves; they were gentle and 
fair to them; the greatest penalty they inflicted on them was to make 
them walk before their neighbors with a forked stick on their backs. 
Mores were enough to maintain the fidelity of slaves; they did not have 
to have laws. 

But when Rome expanded, when the slaves of the Romans were no 
longer companions in their work but instruments of their luxury and 
arrogance, laws were needed as there were no mores at all. There had 
even to be terrible laws in order to establish security for these cruel 
masters who lived among their slaves as if among their enemies. 

One made the senatus-consult Silanianium and other laws 23 which 
established that, when a master was killed, all the slaves under the same 
roof or within earshot would without distinction be condemned to 
death. Those who, in this case, gave refuge to a slave to save him were 
punished as murderers . 24 Even the slave whose master had ordered 
him to kill him 2S and who obeyed was guilty; the one who had not kept 

22 Florus [Epitome rerum Romanorum], bk. 3 [2.7.2], says, “Sicily, more cruelly devastated by 
the Slave War than by the Punic War.” 

23 See all of the article de senatus consultu Silaniano et Claudiano quorum teslamenta ne 
aperiantur [Corpus Juris Chilis, Digest 29.5]. 

24 Law 3, para. 12 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest]; de senatus consultus Silaniano. 

25 When Anthony commanded Eros to kill him this was not only a command to kill him but 
also to kill himself, for, if he had obeyed, he would have been punished as the murderer of 
his master. 


The laws of civil slavery 

the master from killing himself was punished . 26 If a master were killed 
while traveling, one put to death 27 those who remained with him and 
those who had fled. All these laws were applicable even to those whose 
innocence was proven. Their purpose was to give the slaves a pro- 
digious respect for their master. The laws were not dependent on civil 
government but on a vice or imperfection in civil government. They 
were not derived from the fairness of the civil laws because they were 
contrary to the principles of the civil laws. They were properly founded 
on the principle of war, except that the enemies were in the bosom of 
the state. The senatus-consult Silanianium derived from the right of 
nations, which wants a society, even an imperfect one, to preserve itself. 

It is a misfortune in government when the magistracy sees itself thus 
constrained to make cruel laws. Because obedience has been made 
difficult, one is obliged to augment the penalty for disobedience or to 
make faithfulness suspect. A prudent legislator avoids the misfortune 
of becoming a terrifying legislator. Because the slaves among the 
Romans could have no trust in the law, the law could have no trust in 

26 Law i, para. 22 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest}; de senatu consultu Silaniano. 
27 Law 1, para. 31, ibid. [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 1]; de senatu consultu Silaniano. 


Regulations to make between the master and the slaves 

The magistrate should see to it that the slave is nourished and clothed; 
this should be regulated by law. 

The laws should take care that slaves are looked after in sickness and 
in old age. Claudius 28 ordered that sick slaves who were abandoned by 
their masters would be free if they escaped. This law secured their 
liberty; it should also have secured their life. 

When the law permits the master to take the life of his slave, it is a 
right he should exercise as a judge and not as a master; the law must 
order formalities, which remove the suspicion of a violent action. 

In Rome when fathers were no longer permitted to put their children 

28 Xiphilinus, in Claudio [Cass. Dio, Historia Romana, 60 (6i). 29.7; Xiph. 142.26-29]. 


to death, the magistrates imposed 29 the penalty that the father wanted 
to prescribe. A like usage would be reasonable between master and 
slaves in countries where masters have the right of life and death. 

The law of Moses was very crude/ “If someone beats his slave and 
the slave dies under his hand, he will be punished; but if the slave 
survives a day or two, he will not be punished because it is his silver.”^ 
What a people, whose civil law ceased to cling to natural law! 

According to a Greek law , 30 slaves treated too roughly by their 
master could ask to be sold to another. In later times, there was a similar 
law in Rome . 31 A master incensed with his slave and a slave incensed 
with his master should be separated. 

When a citizen mistreats the slave of another, the latter must be able 
to go before a judge. The laws of Plato 32 and of most peoples take 
natural defense away from slaves; therefore, they must be given civil 

In Lacedaemonia, slaves could expect no justice for either insults or 
injuries. The extremity of their unhappiness was that they were the 
slaves not only of a citizen but also of the public; they belonged to 
everyone and to one alone. In Rome one considered only the interest of 
the master 33 in the harm done to a slave. In the application of the 
Aquilian law, a wound inflicted on a beast and one inflicted on a slave 
were confounded; attention was paid only to the reduction in their 
price. In Athens 34 he who had mistreated the slave of another was 
punished severely, sometimes even by death. The Athenian law, with 
reason, did not want to add the loss of security to that of liberty. 

29 See law 3 of the Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 8.46.3]; depatria pot estate, which is by the 
Emperor Alexander [Severus]. 

30 Plutarch [Moralia] De supers tittone [i66d]. 

31 See the constitution of Antoninus Pius [Corpus Juris Civilis], Institutes, bk. 1, tit. 7 [1.7; de 
lege Fufia caninia sublata]. 

32 [Plato, Lam] bk. 9 [865c— d]. (This may not be the clearest interpretation of the Plato 
passage, but I am convinced this is the one M. had in mind. Consider footnote 26. 1 in bk. 
26, chap. 3.] 

33 This was also often the spirit of the laws of the peoples who came from Germany, as can be 
seen in their codes. 

34 Demosthenes, Orationes, Contra Midiam, p. 610, Frankfurt, 1604 edn [21.47]. 

'The word here is rude, meaning both primitive and hard. 
^Exodus 20.20-21. 

The laws of civil slavery 

chapter 18 

On freeing slaves 

One certainly feels that when there are many slaves in a republican 
government, many of them must be freed. The trouble is that, if there 
are too many slaves, they cannot be contained; if there are too many 
freed men, they cannot survive and they become a burden to the 
republic; moreover, the republic can be equally endangered by too 
many freed men and by too many slaves. Therefore, the laws must keep 
an eye on these two drawbacks. 

The various laws and the senatus-consults made in Rome for and 
against slaves, sometimes to hamper, sometimes to facilitate, the 
freeing of slaves, make their uneasiness in this regard easy to see. 
There were even times when one did not dare make laws. When, under 
Nero , 35 the senate was asked to permit the patrons to return ungrateful 
freed men to servitude, the emperor wrote that particular suits were to 
be judged and nothing general was to be enacted. 

I scarcely know how to say which regulations a good republic should 
make on this matter; it depends too much on circumstances. Here are 
some reflections. 

Slaves must not be freed suddenly in considerable numbers by a 
general law. One knows that, among the Volscians , 36 when the freed 
men became masters of the voting, they made an abominable law giving 
themselves the right to be the first to lie with girls who married freeborn 

There are various ways to introduce new citizens into the republic 
imperceptibly. The laws can favor savings and put the slaves in a 
position to buy their liberty. They can set the term of servitude, as did 
those of Moses which limited the servitude of Hebrew slaves to six 
years . 37 It is easy each year to free a certain number of slaves among 
those who, by their age, health, or industry, will have the means to earn 
a living. One can even heal the ill at its root; as a great number of slaves 
are bound to the various employments given them, transferring to the 
freeborn a part of these employments, for example, commerce or 
navigation, decreases the number of slaves. 

35 Tacitus, Annales, bk. 13 [13.27]. 

36 [Johann] Freinsheim, Supplementorum Lwianorum, decade 2, bk. 5 [15.14]. 

37 Exodus, chap. 21 [21.2]. 


Part 3 

When there are many freed men, the civil laws must specify what 
they owe to their patron, or the contract of emancipation must specify 
these duties for them. 

One feels that their condition should be more favored in the civil 
state than in the political state because even in popular government, 
power should not fall into the hands of the common people. 

In Rome, where there were so many freed men, the political laws in 
their regard were admirable. They were given little and excluded from 
almost nothing. They certainly took part in legislation, but they almost 
never influenced the resolutions that were taken. They could hold 
posts and even belong to the priesthood , 38 but this privilege was in a way 
rendered empty by the disadvantages they had in the elections. They 
had the right to enter the militia; but to be a soldier one had to be in a 
certain census. Nothing kept freed men 39 from uniting by marriage 
with freeborn families, but they were not permitted alliances with 
senators’ families. Finally, their children were freeborn, although they 
themselves were not. 

38 Tacitus, v 4 nna/«, bk. 3 [13.27]. 

39 Harangue of Augustus, in Cass. Dio [Historia Romana\, bk. 56 [56.7.2]. 


On freed men and eunuchs 

Thus in the government of many, it is often useful for the condition of 
the freed men to be but slightly below that of the freeborn and for the 
laws to work to remove their aversion to their condition. But in the 
government of one alone, while luxury and arbitrary power reign, there 
is nothing to be done in this regard. The freed men are almost always 
above the freemen. They dominate in the court of the prince and in the 
palaces of the important men; and, as they have studied the weaknesses 
of their master and not his virtues, they make him reign not by his 
virtues but by his weaknesses. Such men were the freed men in Rome 
at the time of the emperors. 

When the principal slaves are eunuchs, despite the privileges 
accorded them, they can scarcely be regarded as freed men. For, as 
they cannot have families, they are bound to a family by their nature, 
and it is only by a kind of fiction that one can regard them as citizens. 


The laws of civil slavery 

Nevertheless, there are countries where they are given all the 
magistracies: “In Tonkin ,” 40 Dampier says, “all the civil and military 
mandarins are eunuchs .” 41 They have no family, and although they are 
naturally avaricious, the master or prince profits in the end from their 
very avarice. 

The same Dampier 42 tells us that, in this country, eunuchs cannot do 
without wives and that they marry. This law permitting them to marry 
can be founded only, on the one hand, on the consideration one has 
there for such people, and, on the other, on the scorn one has there for 

Thus, one entrusts magistracies to these people because they have 
no family, and yet they are permitted to marry because they have 

It is then that the remaining senses obstinately want to make up for 
those that are lost, and the enterprises of despair are a kind of 
enjoyment. Thus in Milton’s work, that spirit, to whom only desires 
remain, being filled with his degradation, wants to make use even of his 

In the history of China, one sees a great number of laws that remove 
eunuchs from all civil and military employments, but they always return 
to them. It seems that eunuchs are a necessary ill in the East. 

^[William Dampier, Voyages] vol. 3, p. 91 [vol. 2, pt. 1, chap. 4; 2, 14; 1906 edn]. 

41 It was formerly thus in China. The two Mohammedan Arabs who traveled there in the 
ninth century say “the eunuch” when they want to speak to the governor in a town. 
[Eusebe Renaudot, Anciennes relations des Indes etde la Chine, pp. 29, 60-61; 1718 edn.] 

42 [William Dampier, Voyages] vol. 3, p. 94 [vol. 2, pt. 1, chap. 4; 2, 15, 1906 edn.] 

*John Milton, Paradise Lost. 


BOOK 16 

How the laws of domestic slavery are 
related to the nature of the climate 


On domestic servitude 

Slaves are established for the family rather than in the family. Thus, I 
shall distinguish their servitude from that in which women are held in 
some countries and which I shall call domestic servitude proper. 


That, in the countries of the South, there is a natural 
inequality between the sexes 

Women are marriageable in hot climates at eight, nine, and ten years of 
age; thus, childhood and marriage almost always go together there . 1 
They are old at twenty: thus reason in women is never found with 
beauty there. When beauty' demands empire, reason refuses it; when 
reason could achieve it, beauty exists no longer. Whmen should be held 
in dependence, for reason cannot procure for them in their old age an 
empire that beauty did not give them even in youth. Therefore, when 
reason does not oppose it, it is very simple there for a man to leave his 
wife to take another and for polygamy to be introduced. 

In temperate countries, where women’s charms are better 

‘Mohammed wed Cadigha when she was five, and took her to bed at eight. In the hot 
countries of Arabia and the Indies, girls are nubile at eight and give birth the following 
year. [Humphrey] Prideaux, The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of 
Mahomet [p. 30; 1718 edn). [M. is in error; he should be referring to Ayesha, not Cadigha.) 
One sees women in the kingdom of Algeria give birth at nine, ten, and eleven years. 
Laugier de Tassy, Histoire du royaume d’Alger, p. 61 [chap. 2, “Des Habitans du Royaume 
d’AIger. Des Maures”; p. 61; 1720 edn]. 

The laws of domestic slavery 

preserved, where they become marriageable later, and where they have 
children at a more advanced age, their husbands’ old age more or less 
follows on their own; and, as they have more reason and knowledge 
there when they marry, if only because they have lived longer, a kind of 
equality between the two sexes has naturally been introduced, and 
consequently the law permitting only a single wife. 

In cold countries, the almost necessary use of strong drink 
establishes intemperance among the men; so women, who have a 
natural reserve in this respect because they must always defend 
themselves, again have the advantage of reason over the men. 

Nature, which has distinguished men by strength and by reason, has 
put no term to their power but the term of their strength and their 
reason. She has given women charms and has wanted their ascendancy 
to end with these charms, but in hot countries these are found only at 
the beginning and never through the course of their lives. 

Thus, the law permitting only one wife has more relation to the 
physical aspect of the climate of Europe than to the physical aspect of 
the climate of Asia. It is one of the reasons why Mohammedanism 
found it so easy to establish itself in Asia and so difficult to spread into 
Europe, why Christianity has been maintained in Europe and 
destroyed in Asia, and why, finally, the Mohammedans make so much 
progress in China and the Christians so little. Human reasons are 
always subordinate to that supreme cause that does all that it wants and 
makes use of whatever it wants. 

Certain reasons peculiar to Valentinian 2 made him allow polygamy in 
the Empire. That law, which was violent for our climates, was removed 
by Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius . 3 

2 SeeJordanes, Romana [#307; MGH Auct., vol. 5, p. 39] and the ecclesiastical historians. 
3 See law 7 [Corpus Juris Crvilis] Code [1.9.7]; deludaeis et caelicolis, and Novellae 18, chap. 5 


Part 3 


That having multiple wives depends greatly on 
the support for them 

Although a large number of wives depends much on the husband’s 
wealth in countries where polygamy has been established, still one 
cannot say that wealth causes the establishment of polygamy in a state: 
poverty can have the same effect, as I shall say when speaking of 

In powerful nations polygamy is less a luxury than the occasion for a 
great luxury. In hot climates, one has fewer needs ; 4 it costs less to 
support a wife and children. Therefore, the number of wives one can 
have is greater there. 

4 In Ceylon a man lives for ten sous a month; people there eat only rice and fish. Recueil des 
voyages quiontservidl'etablissementde la Compagniedes Indes, vol. 2,pt. i [“Divers memoires 
touchant les Indes Orientales, premier discours”; 2, 258; 1703 edn; 2, 228; 1725 edn]. 


On polygamy , its various circumstances 

According to calculations made in various places in Europe, more boys 
are born than girls , 5 whereas accounts from Asia 6 and Africa 7 tell us 
that more girls are bom there than boys. Therefore the law permitting 
only a single wife in Europe and the one permitting several in Asia and 
in Africa had a certain relation to the climate. 

In the cold climates of Asia, as in Europe, more boys are bom than 
girls. This is, say the Lamas , 8 the reason for the law in cold countries 
that allows a woman here to have several husbands . 9 

s Mr. Arbuthnot finds that in England the number of boys exceeds that of girls; it has been 
mistakenly concluded that it was the same in all climates. 

6 See [Engelbert] Kaempfer, who reports an enumeration of Meaco, in which one finds 
182,072 males and 223,573 females [Engelbert Kaempfer, The History of Japan together 
with a description of the Kingdom of Siam, 16QO-1692, bk. 2, chap. 5; 1, 332; 1906 edn], 

1 See [William] Smith, A New Voyage to Guinea , pt. 2 [pp. 223-224; 1967 edn], on the 
country of Ante. 

8 [Jean Baptiste] du Halde, vol. 4, p. 46, Description de I’Empire de la Chine, [“Observations 
sur le Thibit,” 4, 572 H; 4, 461 P; 4, 443-444 L]. 

9 Hasan ibn Yazid, Abu Zaid al Sirafi, one of the two Mohammedan Arabs who went to the 


The laws of domestic slavery 

But I do not believe that there are many countries where the 
disproportion is so great that it requires the introduction of a law 
permitting several wives or one permitting several husbands. It means 
only that having many wives or even many husbands is not as far from 
nature in certain countries as in others. 

I admit that if what the accounts tell us were true, that in Bantam 10 
there are ten women for every man, it would be a very particular case of 

In all this I do not justify usages, but I give the reasons for them. 

Indies and China in the ninth century, takes this usage for prostitution. This is because 
nothing else ran so counter to Mohammedan ideas. [Eusebe Rtnzudot, Anciens relations 
des Indes et de la Chine, 56-57, 106, 109; 1718 edn.] 
l0 Recueii des voyages qui ont servi a I'etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 1 [“Premier 
voyage des Hollandais aux Indes Orientales,” 1, 383; 1702 edn; 1, 347; 1725 edn]. 


A reason for a law of Malabar 

On the coast of Malabar, in the caste of the Nairs , 11 men can have only 
one wife, whereas a woman can have several husbands. I believe one 
can discover the origin of this custom. The Nairs are a caste of nobles 
who are the soldiers of all these nations. In Europe one keeps soldiers 
from marrying; in Malabar, where the demands of the climate are 
greater, one has been content to make marriage as slight an encum- 
brance as possible for them; one wife has been given to several men, 
which diminishes to that degree the attachment to a family and the 
cares of a household and leaves these people their military spirit. 

11 Francois Pyrard, Voyage, chap. 27 [vol. 1, chap. 27; 1, 384, 372; 1887-90 edn], Lettres 
edifiantes et curieuses, 3 and 10 [Lettre duR. P. Tachard, Pondichery, February 16, 170253, 
187-189; 1713 edn, Lettre du P. de la Lane, Pondichery, January 13, 1709; 10, 22-23; 
1732 edn], on the Malleami of the coast of Malabar. This is regarded as an abuse of the 
military profession and, as Pyrard says, a woman of the Brahmin caste would never have 
several husbands. 


Part 3 


On polygamy in itself 

Considering polygamy in general, independent of the circumstances 
that can make it somewhat tolerable, it is not useful to mankind or to 
either of the sexes, either to the one which abuses or to the one abused. 
Nor is it useful to children; and one of its major drawbacks is that the 
father and mother cannot have the same affection for their children; a 
father cannot love twenty children as a mother loves two. It is much 
worse when a woman has several husbands, for then paternal love 
depends only on the opinion which a father can believe if he wants, or 
which others can believe, that certain children belong to him. 

It is said that the king of Morocco has in his seraglio white women, 
black women, and yellow women. The unfortunate man scarcely needs 
a color! 

Possessing many wives does not always prevent one from desiring 12 
the wife of another; with avarice as with luxury, thirst increases with the 
acquisition of treasures. 

In the time of Justinian many philosophers who had been hampered 
by Christianity withdrew to the court of Chosroes in Persia." What 
struck them most, says Agathias , 13 was that the people to whom 
polygamy was permitted did not even abstain from adultery. 

Having multiple wives (who could guess it!)* leads to the love that 
nature disavows; this is because one sort of dissoluteness always entails 
another. During the revolution in Constantinople, when the sultan 
Ahmed was deposed, the accounts told that the people, pillaging the 
house of the kehaya/ found not a single woman. They say that it has 
come to the point that most of the seraglios in Algiers 14 have none. 

,2 This is why women in the East are so carefully hidden. 

13 [Agathias] Historiarum , On the Life and Actions of Justinian, p. 403 [2.30]. 

14 LaugierdeTassy , His toire du royaume d Alger [ chap. 5,“Des Turcs du Royaume d’ Alger”; 
p. 80; 1720 ednl. 

"This refers to Justinian’s closing of the schools of Athens, 526 a.d. ca. 
b Translators’ parentheses. 

kehaya was a Turkish viceroy, deputy agent, etc., or a local governor, or a village 


The laws of domestic slavery 

chapter 7 

On equality of treatment in the case of multiple wives 

From the law concerning multiple wives follows the law concerning the 
equality of their treatment. Mohammed, who permits four, wants 
everything to be equal among them; food, clothing, and conjugal duty. 
This law is also established in the Maldives , 15 where one can have three 

The law of Moses 16 even wants the man, married by his father to a 
slave, who later marries a free woman, to deny her nothing in clothing, 
food, or duties. One could give more to the new wife, but the first was 
not to have less. 

15 Francois Pyrard, Voyages, chap. 12 (bk. 1, chap. 12; 1, 151; 1887-1889 edn). 
15 Exodus, chap. 21, w. 10-11 [21.10-11). 


On the separation of women from men 

One consequence of polygamy is that in the rich and voluptuous 
nations one has a very great number of wives. Their separation from the 
men and their enclosure follow naturally from their great number. 
Domestic order requires it to be so; an insolvent debtor seeks to hide 
from the pursuit of his creditors. There are climates in which the 
physical aspect has such strength that morality can do practically 
nothing. Leave a man with a woman; a temptation is a fall, attack is 
sure, and resistance null. In these countries there must be bolted doors 
instead of precepts. 

One of China’s classics considers it a prodigy of virtue for a man to 
be alone in a distant apartment with a woman and not do violence to 
her . 17 

17 < ‘To come upon a treasure of which one makes oneself master, or a beautiful woman alone 
in an isolated apartment, to hear the voice of one’s enemy who will perish if one does not 
give aid: admirable touchstone.” Translation of a Chinese work on morals, in [Jean 
Baptiste] du Halde, [Description de I'Empire de la Chine], vol. 3, p. 15 1 [“Caracteres ou 
Moeurs des Chinois,” 3, 183 H; 3, 15 1 PJ. 




A link between domestic government and politics 

In a republic, the condition of the citizens is limited, equal, gentle, and 
moderate; the effects of public liberty are felt throughout. Empire over 
women could not be as well exercised; and, when climate required this 
empire, the government of one alone was the most suitable. This is one 
of the reasons it has always been difficult to establish popular govern- 
ment in the East. 

On the other hand, the servitude of women is very much in 
conformity with the genius of despotic government, which likes to 
abuse everything. Thus in Asia domestic servitude and despotic 
government have been seen to go hand in hand in every age. In a 
government in which one requires tranquility above all and in which 
extreme subordination is called peace, women must be enclosed; their 
intrigues would be disastrous for the husband. A government that has 
not the time to examine the conduct of its subjects is suspicious of it 
simply because it appears and makes itself felt. 

Let us assume for a moment that the fickleness of spirit and 
indiscretions of our women, what pleases and displeases them, their 
passions, both great and small, were transfered to an Eastern govern- 
ment along with the activity and liberty they have among us: what father 
of a family could be tranquil for a moment? Suspects everywhere, 
enemies everywhere; the state would be shaken, one would see rivers of 
blood flowing. 


Principle of morality in the East 

In the case of multiple wives the more the family ceases to be a unity, 
the more the laws should reunite the detached parts to a center, and the 
more various the interests, the better it is for the laws to return them to 
one interest. 

This is done chiefly by enclosure. Wives should not only be 
separated from men by their enclosure in the house, but they should 
also be separated within that same enclosure, so that each one becomes 


The lam of domestic slavery 

almost a particular family within the family. Women’s entire practice of 
morality, modesty, chastity, discretion, silence, peace, dependency, 
respect, love derives from this; in sum here their feelings are univer- 
sally directed to that which is best in the world by its nature, which is 
one’s exclusive attachment to one’s family. 

By nature women have to perform so many duties proper to them 
that one cannot separate them enough from everything that could give 
them other ideas, from everything one treats as amusement and from 
everything one calls business. 

In the various states of the East, the mores are purer as the enclosure 
of women is stricter. In large states, there are necessarily great lords. 
The greater their means, the more they are in a position to keep women 
in a strict enclosure and prevent them from returning to society. This is 
why women have such admirable mores in the empires of the Turks, 
Persians, Moguls, China and Japan. 

One cannot say the same of the Indies, which have been divided into 
an infinity of little states by the infinite number of islands and the 
situation of the terrain, and which are rendered despotic by a great 
number of causes that I have no time to record here. 

There, only the destitute plunder and only the destitute are 
plundered. Those whom one calls important men have only scant 
means; those whom one calls rich men have scarcely more than their 
sustenance. The enclosure of women cannot be strict there; one cannot 
take such careful precautions to contain them; their mores are 
inconceivably corrupt. 

It is there that one sees the point to which the vices of climate, left in 
great liberty, can carry disorder. There nature has a strength, and 
modesty, a weakness that is incomprehensible. In Patani , 18 women’s 
lust 19 is so great that men are constrained to make a kind of rigging to 
shield themselves from women’s enterprises. According to Mr. 
Smith , 20 things are no better in the little kingdoms of Guinea. It seems 

m Recuei! des voyages qui ont servi a. I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 1 96 
(“Voyage de T. van Neck”; 2, 222; 1703 edn; 2, 192; 1725 edn]. 

19 In the Maldives, fathers give their daughters in marriage at the age of ten or eleven because 
it is a great sin, they say, to let them suffer the need for men. Francois Pyrard, Voyages, 
chap. 12 (vol. 1, chap. 12; 1, 152; 1887-1890 edn]. In Bantam, as soon as a daughter is 
thirteen or fourteen, she must be married if she is not to lead a disorderly life. Recueil des 
voyages qui ont servi a I’elablissement de la Compagnie des Indes, p. 348 (“Voyage des 
Hollandais aux Indes,” i, 384; 1702 edn; 1, 348; 1725 edn], 

20 [William Smith] A New Voyage to Guinea, pt. 2, p. 192 of the translation [pp. 221-222; 
1967 edn]. “When the women,” he says, “meet a man, they seize him and threaten to 


Part 3 

that in these countries, the two sexes lose everything, including the laws 
proper to them. 

denounce him to their husbands if he disregards them. They slip into a man’s bed, awaken 
him, and if he refuses them, they threaten to have him caught in the act.” 


On domestic servitude independent of polygamy 

In certain places in the East, it is not only multiple wives that require 
their enclosure; it is the climate. Those who read of the horrors, 
crimes, perfidies, atrocities, poisons, and murders caused by the liberty 
of women in Goa and in the establishments of the Portuguese in the 
Indies where religion permits only one wife, and who will compare 
these to the innocence and purity of the mores of wives in Turkey, in 
Persia, among the Moguls, in China, and in Japan, will see that it is 
often as necessary to separate women from men when there is only one 
wife as when there are many. 

It is climate that should decide these things. What would be the use 
of enclosing wives in our northern countries, where their mores are 
naturally good, where all their passions are calm, scarcely active, and 
scarcely refined, where love has such a regulated empire over the heart 
that the slightest police is sufficient to lead them? 

One is fortunate to live in these climates that allow communication 
between people, where the sex with the most charms seems to adorn 
society and where women, keeping themselves for the pleasures of one 
man, yet serve for the diversion of all. 


On natural modesty 

All nations are equally agreed in attaching scorn to the incontinence of 
women; this is because nature has spoken to all nations. She has 
established defense, she has established attack; and, having put desires 
into both sides, she has placed temerity in the one and shame in the 


The laws of domestic slavery 

other. She has given individuals long periods of time to preserve 
themselves and only brief moments for their perpetuation. 

Therefore, it is not true that incontinence follows the laws of nature; 
on the contrary, it violates them. It is modesty and discretion that follow 
these laws. 

Besides, it is in the nature of intelligent beings to feel their 
imperfections; therefore, nature has given us modesty, that is, shame 
for our imperfections. 

Therefore, when the physical power of certain climates violates the 
natural law of the two sexes and that of intelligent beings, it is for the 
legislator to make civil laws which forcefully oppose the nature of the 
climate and reestablish the primitive laws. 


On jealousy 

Among peoples one must distinguish between jealousy that comes 
from passion and jealousy from custom, mores, or laws. The former is 
an ardent fever that devours; the latter, cold, but sometimes terrible, 
can be joined to indifference and scorn. 

The first, which is abuse of love, is bom of love itself. The other 
depends solely on the mores, the national manners, the laws of the 
country, the morality, and sometimes even the religion . 21 

Jealousy is almost always the result of the physical force of the 
climate, and it is the remedy for this physical force. 

21 Mohammed recommended to his disciples that they keep their wives safe; a certain Iman 
said the same thing on dying, and Confucius too preached this doctrine. (John Chardin, 
Voyages, “Description du Gouvemment”, chap. 12, “Du Palais des femmes du Roi”; 6, 
9-10; i8tr edn.j 


On household government in the East 

One changes wives in the East so frequently that the domestic 
government cannot be theirs. Therefore, the eunuchs are put in charge 
of it; they are given all the keys, and they arrange the business of the 


Part 3 

house. “In Persia,” says M. Chardin, “wives are given their clothing as 
it would be given to children.”'* Thus that concern which seems to suit 
them so well, that concern which everywhere else is the first of their 
concerns, is not theirs. 

d ] ohn Chardin, Voyages, “Description du Go uvemment,” chap. 12, “Du palais des 
femmes du roi;” 6,30; 1811 edn. 


On divorce and repudiation 

A difference between divorce and repudiation is that divorce occurs by 
mutual consent on the occasion of a mutual incompatibility, whereas 
repudiation is done by the will and for the advantage of one of the two 
parties, independendy of the will and the advantage of the other. 

It is sometimes so necessary for wives to repudiate their husbands 
and always so trying for them to do it, that it is a hard law that gives this 
right to men without giving it to their wives. A husband is the master of 
the house; he has a thousand ways to hold his wives to their duty or to 
return them to it, and it seems that, in his hands, repudiation is only a 
new abuse of his power. But a wife who repudiates her husband 
exercises only a sad remedy. It is always a great misfortune for her to be 
constrained to go and look for a second husband when she has lost most 
of her charms while married to another. One of the advantages of 
youthful charm in wives is that, at an advanced age, a husband is 
inclined to kindness by the memory of his pleasures. 

Therefore, it is a general rule that in all countries where the law 
grants men the faculty of repudiation, it should also grant it to wives. 
Further, in the climates where wives live in domestic slavery, it seems 
that the law should permit wives repudiation and husbands divorce 

When wives are in a seraglio, the husband cannot repudiate one of 
them because of the incompatibility of mores; it is the husband’s fault if 
the mores are incompatible. 

Repudiation by reason of barrenness can occur only in the case of a 
single wife ; 22 when one has several wives, this reason is not of any 
importance for the husband. 

22 This does not mean that repudiation by reason of barrenness is permitted in Christianity. 


The laws of domestic slavery 

The law of the Maldives 23 allows one to take back a wife one has 
repudiated. The law of Mexico 24 prohibited them from coming back 
together on penalty of death. The law of Mexico was more sensible 
than the law of the Maldives; even at the time of dissolving a marriage, 
the Mexican law thought about its eternity; whereas the law of the 
Maldives seems to trifle equally with marriage and repudiation. 

The Mexican law granted divorce only. This was an additional 
reason not to allow people to reunite who had voluntarily separated. 
Repudiation seems rather to stem from a quickness of spirit and some 
passion of the soul; divorce seems to be a matter of counsel. 

Ordinarily divorce has great political utility, and as for its civil utility, 
it is established for the husband and the wife and is not always favorable 
to the children. 

23 Franqois Pyrard, Voyages [vol. i, chap. 12; 1, 153; 1887-1890 edn]. She is taken rather 
than another because there are fewer expenses in this case. 

24 [Antoine de] Solis [y Rivadeneyra], History of the Conquest [of Mexico by the Spaniards], p. 
499 [bk. 3, chap. 17; 345-355; *973 edn]. 


On repudiation and divorce among the Romans 

Romulus allowed the husband to repudiate his wife if she had 
committed adultery, prepared poison, or tampered with the keys. He 
did not give wives the right to repudiate their husbands. Plutarch 25 calls 
this a very harsh law. 

As the law in Athens 26 gave the wife as well as the husband the faculty 
of repudiating, and as one sees that the wives had obtained this right 
among the earliest Romans in spite of the law of Romulus, it is clear 
that this institution was one of those brought from Athens by the 
Roman deputies and that it was put into the Law of Twelve Tables. 

Cicero 27 says that the causes of repudiation came from the Law of 
Twelve Tables. Therefore, one cannot doubt that this law had 
increased the number of causes for repudiation established by 

25 [Plutarch, Vit.] Romulus [22.3]. 26 It was one of Solon’s laws. 

27 [Cicero] Philippicae 2 [2.28.69]. “He has ordered his actress to take up her own property 
[this constituted divorce]; he based his case on the Twelve Tables” [L.]. 


Part 3 

The faculty of divorce was also a provision, or at least a consequence 
of the Law of Twelve Tables. For as soon as the wife or the husband 
separately had the right of repudiation, they would all the more be able 
to separate by agreement and by a mutual will. 

The law did not require one to give any causes for divorce. 28 This is 
because, by the nature of the thing, there must be causes for repudi- 
ation and not for divorce; for when the law establishes causes that can 
dissolve a marriage, mutual incompatibility is the strongest of all. 

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, 29 Valerius Maximus, 30 and Aulus Gel- 
lius 31 report a fact that does not seem probable to me; they say that, 
although in Rome one had the faculty of repudiating one’s wife, there 
was such respect for the auspices that in 5 20 years 32 no one had used 
this right until Carvilius Ruga repudiated his wife as a consequence of 
her barrenness. But simply knowing the nature of the human spirit is to 
feel what a prodigy it would be if the law that had given the whole 
people such a right was used by no one. Coriolanus, on going into exile, 
counseled his wife to marry a happier man than himself. 33 We have just 
seen that the Law of Twelve Tables and the mores of the Romans 
greatly extended the law of Romulus. Why would there be these 
extensions if one had never used the faculty of repudiating? Moreover, 
if the citizens had such respect for the auspices that they never 
repudiated their wives, why would the Roman legislators have had less? 
How did the law constandy corrupt the mores? 

By comparing two passages in Plutarch, one will see the element of 
marvel in the fact in question disappear. The royal law 34 permitted the 
husband to repudiate in the three cases mentioned. “And it wanted,” 
says Plutarch, 35 “anyone who repudiated in the other cases to be 
obliged to give half his goods to his wife and to dedicate the other half to 
Ceres.” Therefore, one could repudiate in any case by submitting to 

“Justinian changed this. [Corpus Juris Crvilis] Navellae 1 17, chap. 10 [1 17.10]. 

29 [Dion. Hal., Ant. Rom.] bk. 2 {2.25.7]. 

30 [Valerius Maximus, Factotum et dictorum memorabilium ], bk. 2, chap. 4 [2.1.4], 

31 [Aulus Gellius, Noctium Atticarum], bk. 4, chap. 3 [4.3]. 

32 According to Dion. Hal. [Ant . Rom., 2.25.7] and Valerius Maximus [2.14]; and 523 
[231 B.C.] according to Aulus Gellius [Noctium Atticarum 4.3.2]; M. has confused his 
sources: Aulus Gellius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus agree on the date of 23 1 b.c., 
Valerius dates the event at 604 B.c. 

33 See the discourse of Veturia, in Dion. Hal. [Ant. Rom.], bk. 8 [8.41 .4]. 

34 Plutarch [Vit.], Romulus [22.3]. 

35 Ibid. [Plutarch, Vit., Romulus 22.3.] 


The laws of domestic slavery 

the penalty. No one did it before Carvilius Ruga, 36 “who,” as Plutarch 
goes on to say, 37 “repudiated his wife for barrenness 230 years after 
Romulus;” that is, he repudiated her 71 years before the Law of 
Twelve Tables, which extended the power to repudiate as well as the 
causes for repudiation. 

The authors to whom I have referred say that Carvilius Ruga loved 
his wife but that because of her barrenness the censors made him take 
an oath that he would repudiate her so that he could give children to the 
republic and that this made him odious to the people. The genius of the 
Roman people must be known in order to reveal the true cause of the 
hatred they conceived for Carvilius. Carvilius did not fall into disgrace 
with the people for repudiating his wife; that is a thing that did not 
disturb them. But Carvilius had sworn an oath to the censors that, given 
the barrenness of his wife, he would repudiate her in order to give 
children to the republic. The people saw that this was a yoke that the 
censors were going to put on them. I shall show later in this work 38 the 
repugnance they always had for such regulations. But where could such 
a contradiction between these authors have begun? Here Plutarch has 
examined a fact and the others have told of a marvel. 

36 In fact, sterility is not indicated as a cause in the law of Romulus. It seems likely that it was 
not subject to the penalty of confiscation, as it followed the order of the censors. 

- ,7 In [Plutarch, Vit.] The Comparison of Theseus and Romulus [6.3]. 

38 In bk. 23, chap. 21 [below]. 


BOOK 17 

How the laws of political servitude are 
related to the nature of the climate 


On political servitude 

Political servitude depends no less on the nature of the climate than do 
civil and domestic servitude, as will be shown. 


Differences between peoples in relation to courage 

We have already said that great heat enervates the strength and courage 
of men and that there is in cold climates a certain strength of body and 
spirit that makes men capable of long, arduous, great, and daring 
actions. This is noticeable not only from nation to nation but even from 
one part of the same country to another. The peoples of northern 
China 1 are more courageous than those of the south; the peoples of 
southern Korea 2 are not as courageous as those of the north. 

Therefore, one must not be surprised that the cowardice of the 
peoples of hot climates has almost always made them slaves and that the 
courage of the peoples of cold climates has kept them free. This is an 
effect that derives from its natural cause. 

This is also found to be true in America; the despotic empires of 
Mexico and Peru were near the equator, and almost all the small free 
peoples were and still are toward the poles. 

' (Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de VEmpiredela Chine, “Province de Pe Tcheli”], vol. 
t, p. 1 12 [i, 1 33-134 H; 1, 1 12 P; 1, 1 11 L]. 

2 So say the Chinese books. Ibid. [Jean Baptiste duHald t. Description de VEmpiredela Chine, 
“Histoire de la Coree”], vol. 4, p. 448 [4, 557 H; 4, 448 P; 4, 423 Lj. 

The laws of political servitude 


On the climate of Asia 

Accounts tell us 3 

that the north of Asia, that vast continent extending from about the 
fortieth parallel to the pole and from the border of Muscovy to the 
Eastern Ocean, has a very cold climate; that this immense terrain is 
divided from west to east by a chain of mountains that puts Siberia 
to the north and Greater Tartary to the south; that the climate of 
Siberia is so cold that, although the Russians have settlements 
along the Irtysh, they cultivate nothing there; that nothing grows in 
this country but a few small fir trees and shrubs; that the natives of 
the country are divided into destitute tribes like those of Canada; 
that the reason for this cold is, on the one hand, the elevation of the 
terrain, and on the other, that as one goes from south to north the 
mountains level out and the north wind blows everywhere 
unobstructed; and that, when this wind that makes Novaya Zemlya 
uninhabitable blows in Siberia, it makes it a wasteland. In Europe, 
on the other hand, the mountains of Norway and Lapland are 
admirable bulwarks shielding the countries of the north from this 
wind; that thus in Stockholm, which is at about 59 degrees latitude, 
the terrain can produce fruits, grains, and plants; and that around 
Abo, which is at 61 degrees north, just as at the 63rd and 64th 
degree, there are silver mines and the terrain is quite fertile. 

We see further in the accounts 

that Greater Tartary, which is to the south of Siberia, is also very 
cold; that the country is not cultivated; that only pastures for herds 
are found there; that as in Iceland some bushes but not trees grow 
there; that close to China and the Moguls there are some countries 
where a kind of millet grows, but where neither wheat nor rice can 
ripen; that there are scarcely any spots in Chinese Tartary, at the 
43rd, 44th, and 45th parallel, where it does not freeze seven or 
eight months a year; so that it is as cold as Iceland although it 
should be warmer than the south of France; that there are no 

3 See the Receuil de Voyages au Nord, vol. 8 (“Les moeurs et usages des Ostiackes,” 8, 389- 
392; 1727 edn]; [Ebulgazi Bahadir Han, Khan of Khorezm] Histoire genealogique des Tatars 
[Bentinck’s note, pt. 2, chap. 12, “De la tribu des Moguls,” 1, 127-129; 1726 edn]; and 
Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde, Description de I’Empire de la Chine, vol. 4 [“Voiage du Pere 
Gerbillon en Tartarie”; 4, 103-528 H; 4, 87-422 P; 4, 214-380 L]. 


Part 3 

towns, except four or five near the Eastern Ocean and some that 
the Chinese have built close to China for political reasons; that in 
the remainder of Greater Tartary there are only a few located in 
the Boucharies, Turkistan, and Charizme; that the reason for this 
extreme cold is found in the nature of the terrain, which is nitrous, 
full of saltpeter, and sandy, as well as in its elevation. Father 
Verbiest had found that a certain spot eighty leagues north of the 
Great Wall, toward the source of the Kavamhuram, that rose three 
thousand geometric feet above the coast of the ocean near Peking; 
that this elevation 4 is the cause for the fact that, although almost all 
the great rivers of Asia have their source in the countryside, it 
nevertheless lacks water, so it can be inhabited only near the rivers 
and lakes. 

These facts stated, I reason thus: Asia has no temperate zone, 
properly so called, and the places situated in a very cold climate there 
are immediately adjacent to those that are in a very warm climate, that 
is, Turkey, Persia, the Mogul Empire, China, Korea, and japan. 

In Europe, on the other hand, the temperate zone is very broad, 
although the climates within it are very different from each other, as 
there is no relation between the climate of Spain and Italy and that of 
Norway and Sweden. But as the climate there grows colder gradually as 
one goes from south to north approximately in proportion to the 
latitude of each country, it happens that there each country is very like 
its neighbor, that there is not a notable difference between them, and 
that, as I have just said, the temperate zone is very broad. 

From this, it follows that in Asia the strong and weak nations face 
each other; the brave and active warrior peoples are immediately 
adjacent to effeminate, lazy and timid peoples; therefore, one must be 
the conquered and the other the conqueror. In Europe, on the other 
hand, strong nations face the strong; those that are adjacent have 
almost the same amount of courage. This is the major reason for the 
weakness of Asia and the strength of Europe, for the liberty of Europe 
and the servitude of Asia: a cause that I think has never before been 
observed. This is why liberty never increases in Asia, whereas in 
Europe it increases or decreases according to the circumstances. 

Although the Muscovite nobility was reduced to servitude by one of 
its princes, one will always see there marks of impatience that the 
southern climates do not produce. Did we not see aristocratic govem- 

4 Tartary is, then, a kind of high plateau. 


The laws of political servitude 

ment established there briefly? Although another kingdom in the north 
has lost its laws, one can trust to the climate that it has not lost them 


A consequence of this 

What we have just said agrees with the events of history. Asia has been 
subjugated thirteen times; eleven times by the peoples of the North, 
twice by those of the South. In the distant past, the Scythians 
conquered it three times, then the Medes and the Persians once each; 
then the Greeks, the Arabs, the Moguls, the Turks, the Tartars, the 
Persians, and the Afghans. I speak only of upper Asia and I say nothing 
of the invasions made in the southern part, which has continually 
suffered great revolutions. 

In Europe, on the other hand, we know of only four great changes 
since the establishment of the Greek and Phoenician colonies: the first, 
caused by the Roman conquests; the second, by the inundations of the 
barbarians who destroyed these same Romans; the third, by the 
victories of Charlemagne; and the last, by the Norman invasions. And, 
upon examining these closely, one will find that, by these very changes, 
force was spread generally throughout all the parts of Europe. One 
knows the difficulty the Romans found in conquering Europe and the 
ease with which they invaded Asia. One knows the pains the northern 
peoples had to take to overthrow the Roman Empire, the wars and 
works of Charlemagne, the various enterprises of the Normans. The 
destroyers were constantly destroyed. 

Part 3 

chapter 5 

That, when the peoples of northern Asia and those of 
northern Europe conquered, the effects of their conquests 
were not the same 

The peoples of northern Europe have conquered as free men; the 
peoples of northern Asia have conquered as slaves and have been 
victorious only for a master. 

The reason is that the Tartar people, Asia’s natural conquerors, have 
become slaves themselves. They constantly conquer southern Asia, 
they form empires; but the part of the conquering nation that remains 
in this country is subject to a great master, who is despotic in the south, 
who also wants to be so in the north and who, with arbitrary power over 
the conquered subjects, claims it also over the conquering subjects. 
This can be seen today in that vast country called Chinese Tartary, 
which the emperor governs almost as despotically as China itself and 
which he extends every day by his conquests. 

One can also see in the history of China that the emperors 5 sent 
colonies of Chinese into Tartary. These Chinese became Tartars and 
mortal enemies of China, but that did not keep them from carrying the 
spirit of Chinese government into Tartary. 

Often a part of the Tartar nation that conquered was itself driven 
out, and it went back to its deserts with a spirit of servitude acquired in 
the climate of slavery. The history of China furnishes us with great 
examples, as does our ancient history . 6 

This is why the genius of the Tartar or Getae nation has always been 
similar to that of the empires of Asia. The peoples in the latter are 
governed by the cudgel; the Tartar peoples, by the lash. The spirit of 
Europe has always been contrary to these mores; and what the peoples 
of Asia have always called punishment, the peoples of Europe have 
always called gross offence . 7 

5 As did Ven-ti [actually Vou-ti], fifth emperor of the fifth dynasty. [Father Jean Baptiste du 
Halde, Description del'Empire de la Chine, “Fastes de la monarchic chinoise”; i, 354 H; 1 , 
384 P; 1,352 L). 

6 The Scythians conquered Asia three times and were driven out three times. Justin, bk. 2 
[Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum 2.3]. 

7 This is not at all contrary to what I shall say in bk. 28, chap. 20, on the manner of thinking 
of the German peoples concerning the staff. Whatever instrument it was, they always 
regarded as an affront the arbitrary power to beat and the action of beating. 


The lam of political servitude 

When the Tartars destroyed the Greek empire, they established 
servitude and despotism in the conquered countries; when the Goths 
conquered the Roman empire, they founded monarchy and liberty 

I do not know if the famous Rudbeck, who in his Atlantica? has so 
praised Scandinavia, has mentioned the great prerogative that should 
put the nations inhabiting it above all the peoples of the world: it is that 
they have been the source of European liberty, that is, of almost all of it 
that there is today among men. 

The Goth Jordanes has called northern Europe the manufactory of 
the human species . 8 I shall rather call it the manufactory of the 
instruments that break the chains forged in the south. It is there that are 
formed the valiant nations who go out of their own countries to destroy 
tyrants and slaves and to teach men that, as nature has made them 
equal, reason can make them dependent only for the sake of their 

8 [Jordanes, Getica, chap. 4]: “the workshop for the human race” [L.]. 

a Olof Rudbeck, A tlantica. 


An additional physical cause for the servitude of Asia 
and the liberty of Europe 

In Asia one has always seen great empires; in Europe they were never 
able to continue to exist. This is because the Asia we know has broader 
plains; it is cut into larger parts by seas; and, as it is more to the south, its 
streams dry up more easily, its mountains are less covered with snow, 
and its smaller rivers 9 form slighter barriers. 

Therefore, power should always be despotic in Asia. For if servitude 
there were not extreme, there would immediately be a division that the 
nature of the country cannot endure. 

In Europe, the natural divisions form many medium-sized states in 
which the government of laws is not incompatible with the maintenance 
of the state; on the other hand, they are so favorable to this that without 

’Waters are lost or evaporate before they converge or after they converge. 


Part 3 

laws this state falls into decadence and becomes inferior to all the 

This is what has formed a genius for liberty, which makes it very 
difficult to subjugate each part and to put it under a foreign force other 
than by laws and by what is useful to its commerce. 

By contrast in Asia there reigns a spirit of servitude that has never left 
it, and in all the histories of this country it is not possible to find a single 
trait marking a free soul; one will never see there anything but the 
heroism of servitude. 


On Africa and on America 

This is what I can say about Asia and Europe. Africa has a climate like 
that of southern Asia, and it has the same servitude. America , 10 
destroyed and newly repopulated by the nations of Europe and Africa, 
can scarcely demonstrate its own genius today, but what we know of its 
former history is quite in conformity with our principles. 

10 The little barbarian peoples of America are called Ittdios bravos by the Spanish; they are 
much more difficult to subject than die great empires of Mexico and Peru. 


On the capital of the empire 

One of the consequences of what we have just said is that it is important 
to a very great prince to choose well the seat of his empire. He who puts 
it in the south will run the risk of losing the north, and he who puts it in 
the north will easily preserve the south. I do not speak of particular 
cases: as mechanics has its frictions which often change or check its 
theoretical effects, politics, too, has its frictions. 


it a. jfe Jk A. jfe A. A. jfe. a. 4?- ■#■ 4s- 4- ■#■ 4 s - 4- 4 1 4- 4r 4c- 4: 4 1 4^ 4: 


BOOK 18 

On the laws in their relation with the 
nature of the terrain" 


How the nature of the terrain influences the laws 

The goodness of a country’s lands establishes dependence there 
naturally. The people in the countryside, who are the great part of the 
people, are not very careful of their liberty; they are too busy and too full 
of their individual matters of business. A countryside bursting with 
goods fears pillage, it fears an army. “Who is it that forms the good 
party?” Cicero asked Atticus . 1 “Is it the people in commerce and in the 
countryside? Not unless we imagine that the people for whom all 
governments are equal provided they are tranquil oppose monarchy.” 

Thus, government by one alone appears more frequently in fertile 
countries and government by many in the countries that are not, which 
is sometimes a compensation for them. 

The barrenness of the Attic terrain established popular government 
there, and the fertility of the Lacedaemonian terrain, aristocratic 
government. For, in those days in Greece, one did not want govern- 
ment by one alone; now, aristocratic government is more closely related 
to the government by one alone. 

Plutarch tells us 2 that “when the sedition of Cylon had been pacified 
in Athens, the town fell back into its former dissensions and was 
divided into as many parties as there were sorts of territories in the 
country of Attica. The people in the mountains wanted popular 
government at any cost; those of the plains demanded government by 

1 [Cicero, Epistolae ad Auicum] bk. 7 [7.7]. 

2 [Plutarch, Vil.] Solon [13.1]. 

““Terrain,” lerrtin, includes the quality of the soil as well as the configuration of the 
land - flat, hilly, etc. 


Part 3 

the principal men; those near the sea were for a government mixing the 


Continuation of the same subject 

The fertile countries have plains where one can dispute nothing with 
the stronger man: therefore, one submits to him; and, when one has 
submitted to him, the spirit of liberty cannot return; the goods of the 
countryside are a guarantee of faithfulness. But in mountainous 
countries, one can preserve what one has, and one has little to preserve. 
Liberty, that is, the government they enjoy, is the only good worth 
defending. Therefore, it reigns more frequently in mountainous and 
difficult countries than in those which nature seems to have favored 

The mountain people preserve a more moderate government 
because they are not as greatly exposed to conquest. They defend 
themselves easily, they are attacked with difficulty; ammunition and 
provisions are brought together and transported against them at great 
expense, as the country provides neither. Therefore, it is more difficult 
to wage war against them, more dangerous to undertake it, and there is 
less occasion for all the laws one makes for the people’s security. 


Which countries are the most cultivated 

Countries are not cultivated in proportion to their fertility, but in 
proportion to their liberty, and if one divides the earth in thought, one 
will be astonished to see that most of the time the most fertile parts are 
deserted and that great peoples are in those where the terrain seems to 
refuse everything. 

It is natural for a people to leave a bad country in search of a better 
and not for them to leave a good country in search of a worse. 
Therefore, most invasions occur in countries nature had made to be 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

happy, and as nothing is nearer to devastation than invasion, the best 
countries most often lose their population, whereas the wretched 
countries of the north continue to be inhabited because they are almost 

Historians’ accounts of the crossing of the Danube by the 
Scandinavian peoples show that it was not a conquest but only a 
migration into deserted lands. 

Therefore these happy climates had been depopulated by other 
migrations, and we do not know what tragic things occurred. 

“Many records show,” says Aristotle , 3 “that Sardinia is a Greek 
colony. It was formerly rich, and Aristaeus, whose love for agriculture 
has been so vaunted, gave it laws. But, it has fallen into ruin since then 
for, when the Carthaginians made themselves masters of it, they 
destroyed everything that could make it fit to nourish men and 
prohibited cultivating the land on penalty of death.” Sardinia had not 
recovered in Aristotle’s time, nor has it to this day. 

The most temperate parts of Persia, Turkey, Muscovy, and Poland 
have not been able to recover after the devastations of the greater and 
lesser Tartars. 

3 Or the one who wrote the book [Aristotle, De mirabilibus auscultalionibus 838612-29, 


Other effects of the fertility and barrenness of a country 

The barrenness of the land makes men industrious, sober, inured to 
work, courageous, and fit for war; they must procure for themselves 
what the terrain refuses them. The fertility of a country gives, along 
with ease, softness and a certain love for the preservation of life. 

It has been observed that the troops of Germany levied in places 
where the peasants are rich, as in Saxony, are not as good as the others. 
Military laws can provide for this drawback by a more severe discipline. 


Part 3 


On island peoples 

Island peoples are more inclined to liberty than continental peoples. 
Islands are usually small ; 4 one part of the people cannot as easily be 
employed to oppress the other; the sea separates them from great 
empires, and tyranny cannot reach them; conquerors are checked by 
the sea; islanders are not overrun by conquest, and they preserve their 
laws more easily. 

4 Japan is an exception to this because of its size and its servitude. 


On countries formed by the industriousness of men 

Countries which have been made inhabitable by the industry of men 
and which need that same industry in order to exist call for moderate 
government. There are three principal ones: the two fine provinces of 
Kiangsu and Chekiang in China, Egypt, and Holland. 

The former emperors of China were not conquerors. The first thing 
that they did to enlarge their country was the one that most demon- 
strated their wisdom. The finest provinces in the empire were seen to 
rise from under the water; they were made by men. The indescribable 
fertility of these two provinces has given Europe its ideas of the felicity 
of that vast region. But the continuous care necessary to protect such an 
important part of the empire from destruction required the mores of a 
wise people rather than those of a voluptuous people, the legitimate 
power of a monarch rather than the tyrannical power of a despot. Power 
had to be moderate there, as it was in times past in Egypt. Power had to 
be moderate there as it is in Holland, which nature made so that 
attention would be paid to her and that she would not be abandoned to 
indifference or caprice. 

Thus, in spite of the climate of China, where one is by nature 
inclined to servile obedience, in spite of the horrors that attend an 
excessively large empire, the first legislators of China were obliged to 
make very good laws, and the government was often obliged to observe 


The lams and the nature of the terrain 

chapter 7 
On the works of men 

Men, by their care and their good laws, have made the earth more fit to 
be their home. We see rivers flowing where there were lakes and 
marshes; it is a good that nature did not make, but which is maintained 
by nature. When the Persians 5 were the masters of Asia, they permitted 
those who diverted the water from its source to a place that had not yet 
been watered to enjoy it for five generations, and, as many streams flow 
from the Taurus mountains, they spared no expense in getting water 
from there. Today, one finds it in one’s fields and gardens without 
knowing where it comes from. 

Thus, just as destructive nations do evil things that last longer than 
themselves, there are industrious nations that do good things that do 
not end with themselves. 

5 Polybius [Historiae], bk. io [10.28.3-4]. 


General relation of the laws 

The laws are very closely related to the way that various peoples 
procure their subsistence. There must be a more extensive code of laws 
for a people attached to commerce and the sea than for a people 
satisfied to cultivate their lands. There must be a greater one for the 
latter than for a people who live by their herds. There must be a greater 
one for these last than for a people who live by hunting. 


On the American terrain 

There are so many savage nations in America because the land by itself 
produces much fruit with which to nourish them. If the women 
cultivate a bit of the earth around their huts, com grows immediately. 


Part 3 

Hunting and fishing complete their abundance. Moreover, grazing 
animals, like cattle, buffalo, etc., succeed better there than carnivorous 
beasts. The latter have had dominion in Africa from time immemorial. 

I believe one would not have all these advantages in Europe if the 
earth were left uncultivated; there would be scarcely anything but 
forests of oak and of other unproductive trees. 


On the number of men in relation to their 
way of procuring subsistence 

The number of men in nations that do not cultivate the land is found in 
the following proportions. As production on an uncultivated terrain is 
to production on a cultivated terrain, so the number of savages in one 
country is to the number of plowmen in another, and as for the people 
who cultivate the land and also cultivate the arts, this follows propor- 
tions that would require many details. 

They can scarcely form a large nation. If they are herdsmen, they 
need a large country so that any number of them can continue to exist; if 
they are hunters, they are still fewer in number and they form, in order 
to obtain a livelihood, a smaller nation. 

Their country is ordinarily full of forests, and as men have not dug 
canals for water, it is filled with marshes where each band camps and 
forms a small nation. 


On savage peoples and barbarian peoples 

One difference between savage peoples and barbarian peoples is that 
the former are small scattered nations which, for certain particular 
reasons, cannot unite, whereas barbarians are ordinarily small nations 
that can unite together. The former are usually hunting peoples; the 
latter, pastoral peoples. This is clearly seen in northern Asia. The 
peoples of Siberia could not live together in a body because they could 
not feed themselves; the Tartars can live together in a body for some 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

time because their herds can be brought together for that time. All the 
hordes can, therefore, unite, and this occurs when one leader has 
subjected many others; after which they must either separate or they 
must set out to make some great conquest of an empire to the south. 


On the right of nations among peoples who 
do not cultivate the land 

As these peoples do not live on a limited and circumscribed terrain, 
they will have many things to quarrel about; they will dispute over 
uncultivated land, as our citizens dispute over inheritances. Thus, they 
will find frequent occasions for war in their hunting, and their fishing, 
and in providing food for their livestock, and carrying away slaves; and, 
lacking a territory, they will have so many things to regulate by the right 
of nations that they will have few to decide by civil right. 


On civil laws among peoples who do not cultivate the land 

It is the division of lands that principally swells the civil code. In nations 
that have not been divided there will be very few civil laws. 

One can call the institutions of these peoples mores rather than laws. 

In such nations the old men, who remember things past, have great 
authority; one cannot be distinguished by one’s goods there, but by 
arms and by counsel. 

These peoples wander and scatter over the pastures or in the forests. 
Marriage will not be as secure as among ourselves, where it is fixed by 
the home and where the wife is attached to a house; they can more 
easily, therefore, change wives, have several of them, and sometimes 
mingle indifferently like beasts. 

Pastoral peoples cannot be separated from their herds, which 
provide their subsistence, nor can they be separated from their wives, 
who take care of them. All this should, therefore, go together; the more 
so because, as they ordinarily live in great plains where few strongholds 


Part 3 

are built, their wives, children, and herds would become the prey of 
their enemies. 

Their laws will regulate the division of the spoils and will, like our 
Salic laws, pay particular attention to theft. 


On the political state of peoples who do not 
cultivate the land 

These peoples enjoy a great liberty: for, as they do not cultivate the 
land, they are not attached to it; they are wanderers, vagabonds; and if a 
leader wanted to take their liberty from them, they would immediately 
go and seek it with another leader or withdraw into the woods to live 
there with their family. Among these peoples, the liberty of the man is 
so great that it necessarily brings with it the liberty of the citizen. 


On peoples who know the use of money 

When Aristippus was shipwrecked, he swam until he reached a nearby 
shore; he saw geometric figures traced in the sand; he rejoiced, judging 
that he had arrived among a Greek people and not among a barbarian 

If you are alone and happen to come by accident to the land of an 
unknown people and if you see a coin, reckon that you have arrived in a 
nation with a police. 

The cultivation of the land requires the use of money. Cultivation 
assumes many arts and much knowledge, and one always sees arts, 
knowledge, and needs keeping pace together. All this leads to the 
establishment of a sign for value. 

Storms and fires led us to discover that the earth contained metals . 6 
When they were once separated from the earth, it was easy to use them. 

6 Diodorus [Siculus] [Bibliotheca kistorica 5.35.3] tells us that shepherds found die gold 
[silver, according to Diodorus] of the Pyrenees in this way. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

chapter 16 

On civil laws among peoples who do not 
know the use of money 

When a people do not use money, one finds among them scarcely any 
other injustices but those stemming from violence; and weak people, by 
uniting, defend themselves from violence. Among them, therefore, 
there are scarcely any arrangements that are not political. But among a 
people who have established the use of money, one is subject to the 
injustices that come from trickery, and these injustices can be exercised 
in a thousand ways. Therefore, one is forced to have good civil laws 
there; these arise along with the new means and the various ways of 
being wicked. 

In countries where there is no money, the plunderer carries away 
only things, and things are never alike. In countries where there is 
money, the plunderer carries away signs, and signs are always alike. In 
the former countries nothing can be hidden, because the plunderer 
always carries with him proofs for his conviction; it is not the same in 
the latter countries. 


On political laws among people who do not use money 

What most secures the liberty of peoples who do not cultivate the land 
is that money is unknown to them. The fruits of hunting, fishing, or 
herding cannot be brought together in great enough quantity or be 
protected well enough for one man to be in a position to corrupt all the 
others; whereas, when one has signs for wealth, these signs can be 
amassed and distributed to whomever one wants. 

Among peoples without money, each man has few needs and 
satisfies them easily and equally. Equality, therefore, is forced; thus, 
their leaders are not despotic. 


Part 3 


The force of superstition 

If what the accounts tell us is true, the constitution of a people of 
Louisiana called the Natchez is an exception. Their leader 7 controls 
the disposition of the goods of all his subjects and makes them work 
according to his fancy; they cannot refuse him their heads; he is like the 
Grand Signior/ When an heir presumptive is bom, he is given all the 
suckling children to serve him during his life. You would say he is the 
great Sesostris. This leader is treated in his hut with the ceremonies 
one would give to an emperor in Japan or China. 

The prejudices of superstition are greater than all other prejudices, 
and its reasons greater than all other reasons. Thus, although savage 
peoples do not know despotism naturally, these people know it. They 
worship the sun, and if their leader had not imagined that he was the 
brother of the sun, they would have found in him only a poor wretch 
like themselves. 

7 Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, 20 [Lettre du P. Le Petit, la Nouvelle-Orleans,July 12, 1730; 
vol. 20, 106-113; I 73 I cdn]. 

'The Turkish emperor. 


On the liberty of the Arabs and the servitude of the Tartars 

The Arabs and Tartars are pastoral peoples. The Arabs belong to the 
general case we have mentioned and are free; whereas the Tartars (the 
most singular people on earth) are in political slavery. 8 1 have already 9 
given some reasons for this last fact: here are some others. 

They have no towns, they have no forests, they have few marshes; 
their rivers are almost always frozen; they live in an immense plain; they 
have pastures and herds and consequently goods; but they have no 
place of retreat or defense. As soon as a khan is vanquished, his head is 

8 When a khan is proclaimed, all the people shout, “May his word serve him as a sword!” 
9 Bk. 17, chap. 5 [above]. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

cut off , 10 so are his children’s, and all his subjects belong to the 
vanquisher. They are not condemned to a civil slavery; they would be 
burdensome to a simple nation which has no land to cultivate and no 
need of domestic service. Therefore, they increase the nation. But one 
conceives that political slavery instead of civil slavery has had to appear. 

Indeed, in a country where the various hordes are continually at war 
and constantly conquer one another, where the political body of each 
vanquished horde is always destroyed by the death of the leader, the 
nation in general can scarcely be free, for there is not a single part of it 
that must not have been subjugated a great many times. 

Vanquished peoples can preserve some liberty, when, by the 
strength of their situation, they are in a position to make treaties after 
their defeat. But the Tartars, always defenseless, once vanquished have 
never been able to make conditions. 

I have said in Chapter 2 that the inhabitants of cultivated plains were 
scarcely free; circumstances put the Tartars, who live in a wasteland, in 
the same situation. 

*°Thus one must not be astonished if Mir Vais [actually Mir Vais’ son Mir Mahaud], after 
making himself master of Ispahan, had all the princes of the blood killed. 


On the right of nations among the Tartars 

The Tartars appear gentle and humane to each other, and they are very 
cruel conquerors; they put to the sword the inhabitants of the towns 
they take; they believe themselves merciful when they sell or distribute 
the inhabitants to their soldiers. They have destroyed Asia from the 
Indies to the Mediterranean; the whole country that forms eastern 
Persia has become deserted on account of them. 

Here is what seems to me to have produced such a right of nations. 
These peoples had no towns at all; all their wars were waged quickly 
and impetuously. When they expected to vanquish, they fought; they 
joined the stronger army when they did not expect to win. With such 
customs, they found that it was contrary to their right of nations for a 
town that could not resist them to check them: they did not consider a 
town as an assembly of inhabitants, but as a place apt to escape their 


Part 3 

power. They had no art for besieging towns, and they exposed 
themselves greatly when they did so; they took blood revenge for all the 
blood they had spilled. 


Civil law of the Tartars 

Father du Halde says that, among the Tartars, it is always the last male 
child who inherits, because as the older ones gradually reach a position 
to lead the pastoral life, they leave their house with a certain quantity of 
livestock given them by their father and go to build a new dwelling. 
Therefore, the last of the males remaining in the house with his father 
is his natural heir. 

I have heard it said that a similar custom was observed in some small 
districts in England, and it is still found in Brittany in the Duchy of 
Rohan, where it applies to commoners. No doubt it is a pastoral law that 
came from some lesser Breton people or was brought by some 
Germanic people. It is known from Caesar and Tacitus that these latter 
cultivated the land but little. 


On a civil law of the Germanic peoples 

I shall explain here how a particular text from Salic Law, the text 
usually called the Salic Law, concerns the institutions of a people who 
did not cultivate the land, or at least cultivated it but little. 

When a man leaves children, the Salic Law 11 wants the males to 
inherit the Salic land in preference to the daughters. 

In order to know what these Salic lands were, one must discover 
what property was and what the use of the land was among the Franks 
before they left Germany. 

M. Eckhart has nicely proven that the word Salic comes from the 
word sala y which means house, and thus that the Salic land was the land 

n [Lex Salim] tit. 62 {D93; S34]. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

around the house / 1 shall go further and examine what were the house 
and the land around the house among the Germans. 

“They do not live in towns,” says Tacitus, 12 “and they cannot 
tolerate their houses touching one another; each leaves around his 
house a small parcel of ground or a space which is enclosed and shut 
in.” Tacitus spoke correctly. For, many laws in the barbarian codes 13 
have different provisions for those who knocked down this enclosure, 
and for those who entered the house itself. 

We know from Tacitus and Caesar that the lands the Germans 
cultivated were given to them for only a year, and then became public 
again. The Germans had no patrimony other than the house and a bit 
of land within the enclosure around the house. 14 This particular 
patrimony belonged to the males. Indeed, why would it have belonged 
to the daughters? They entered other houses. 

Therefore, the Salic land was that enclosure appended to the 
German’s house; it was the only property he had. After the conquest 
the Franks acquired new properties, which continued to be called Salic 

When the Franks lived in Germany, their goods were slaves, herds, 
horses, arms, etc. The house and the small portion of land adjoining it 
were naturally given to the male children who were to live there. But, 
when the Franks had acquired extensive lands after the conquest, it was 
found harsh that the daughters and their children could not have a 
share. A usage was introduced which permitted the father to recall his 
daughter and his daughter’s children. The law was silenced, and these 
sorts of recalls must have been common because formulas were made 
for them. 15 

Among all these formulas, I find a singular one. 16 A grandfather 

12 [Tacitus] Germania [16]: “It is well known that the peoples of Germany have no cities, nor 
do they even permit their houses to be joined one to another. They live separate and 
scattered where a fountain, a field, or a glade has attracted them. They do not establish 
their villages in our fashion with the buildings being connected and joined together; 
instead, each home is surrounded by an open space” [L.]. 

13 Leges Alamannorum, chap, io [aq; bio] and Lex Baiwariorum, tit. io, paras. 1-2 [1 1.1-2]. 

14 This enclosure is called curtis in the charters. 

15 See Marculf [Marculfi formulae], bk. 2, form. 10 and 12 [2.10, 12 ]; Appendice de Marculfe, 
form. 49 [Cartae Senonicae, 45]; and the old formulas, known as “Sirmondi’s,” form. 22 
[Formulae Turonenses vulgo Sirmondicae dictae 22]. 

16 Formulae Salicae Lindenbrogianae, form. 55 [12]. 

“Johann Georg von Eckhart, Leges Francorum Salicae el Ripuariae , pp. 20, 42, 44, 56; 

1720 edn. 


Part 3 

recalls his grandchildren to inherit with his sons and daughters. What 
had the Salic Law become? It must have been no longer observed, even 
at that time, or the continual usage of recalling daughters must have 
qualified them to inherit in the most ordinary case. 

As the Salic Law did not have as its purpose a preference for one sex 
over another, it had still less that of perpetuating a family, a name, or a 
transfer of land; none of this entered the heads of the Germans. It was a 
purely economic law which gave the house and the land around it to the 
males who were to live in it and for whom consequently it was best 

One need only transcribe here the article, On Alloidal Lands in the 
Salic Law, that famous text so talked about and so little read: 

i. “If a man dies without children, his father or his mother will 
inherit from him. 2. If he has neither father nor mother, his brother or 
sister will inherit from him. 3. If he has neither brother nor sister, his 
mother’s sister will inherit from him. 4. If his mother has no sister, his 
father’s sister will inherit from him. 5. If his father has no sister, the 
nearest relative on the male side will inherit. 6. No portion 17 of the Salic 
land will pass to the females, but it will belong to the males, that is, the 
male children will inherit from their father.” 

It is clear that the first five articles concern the inheritance of one 
who dies without children; and the sixth, the inheritance of one who 
has children. 

When a man died without children, the law wanted one sex to be 
preferred over the other only in certain cases. In the first two degrees of 
inheritance, the advantages of males and females were the same; in the 
third and fourth, women were preferred; males were preferred in the 

I find the seeds of these eccentricities in Tacitus. “The children of 
sisters,” 18 he says, “are cherished by their uncle as by their own father. 
There are some people who consider this bond as closer and even 
holier; they prefer it when they take hostages.” This is why our first 

17 “No portion of the Salic lands will pass as inheritance to women, but it will be acquired by 
the male sex, that is, the sons shall succeed to the inheritance” [L.]. \Pactus legis Salicae], 
tit. 62, para. 6 [59.6]. 

’*“The sons of sisters are held in the same honor by uncles as by the father. Indeed, some 
judge this blood tie as more sacred and binding, and demand them more often when taking 
hostages, thinking to have a firmer and more extensive hold upon their spirits and 
household” [L.]. [Tacitus] Germania [20]. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

historians 19 tell us so much about the love of the Frankish kings for 
their sister and their sister’s children. For if the children of sisters were 
regarded in the brother’s house as his own, it was natural for the 
children to regard their aunt as their own mother. 

The mother’s sister was preferred to the father’s sister; this is 
explained by other texts of the Salic law; when a woman was a widow , 20 
she came under the guardianship of her husband’s relatives; the law 
preferred the female relatives to the male relatives for this guardian- 
ship. Indeed, a woman who entered a family and joined those persons 
of her sex was closer to the female relatives than to the male relatives. 
Moreover, when one man had killed another man 21 and could not 
satisfy the pecuniary penalty he incurred, the law permitted him to cede 
his goods, and his relatives had to make up what was lacking. After his 
father, mother, and brother, it was the mother’s sister who paid, as if 
this bond had something more tender about it; now, the kinship that 
gives burdens had likewise to give advantages. 

The Salic Law wanted the closest male relative after the father’s 
sister to have the inheritance, but if he were a relative beyond the fifth 
degree, he would not inherit it. Thus, a woman of the fifth degree 
would have inherited in preference to a man of the sixth; and this is 
seen in the law of the Ripuarian Franks , 22 a faithful interpreter of the 
Salic Law in the article concerning allodial lands, where it follows step 
by step the same article of that law. 

If the father left children, the Salic Law wanted the daughters to be 
excluded from the inheritance of the Salic land and wanted this to 
belong to the male children. 

It would be easy for me to prove that the Salic law did not exclude 
daughters from the Salic land without distinction, but rather only in the 
case where brothers would exclude them. This is seen in the Salic law 
itself, which, after saying that the women would possess nothing of the 
Salic land and that only men would, interprets and restrains itself; “that 
is,” it says, “the son will inherit the father’s legacy.” 

19 See in Gregory of T ours [Historia ecclesiastical bk. 8, chaps. 1 8 and 20, and bk. 9, chaps, 1 6 
and 20 [8. 18.28; 9. 16.20], Guntram’s fury at the ill treatment done Ingunda, his niece, by 
Lenvigilda, and how Childebert, his brother, made war to avenge her. 

20 Lex Salica, tit. 47 [D79; S24]. 

Z] LexSalica, tit. 61, para. 1 [dioo; si 7]. 

22 “And then in succession up to the fifth degree, whoever is closer will succeed to the 
inheritance” [L.]. [Lex Ribuaria] tit. 56, para. 6 [57.3]. 



2. The text of the Salic law is clarified by the law of the Ripuarian 
Franks, which has also an article 23 on alloidal lands quite in conformity 
with the Salic Law. 

3. The laws of these barbarian peoples, who all come from Germany, 
interpret each other; the more so because they all have nearly the same 
spirit. The law of the Saxons 24 wants the father and mother to leave 
their inheritance to their son and not to their daughter, but if there are 
only daughters, it wants them to have the entire inheritance. 

4. We have two old formulas, 25 which propose the case in which, in 
accord with the Salic Law, daughters are excluded by the males: this is 
when they compete with their brother. 

5. Another formula 26 proves that the daughter inherited in prefer- 
ence to the grandson; therefore, she was excluded only by the son. 

6. If the daughters had been generally excluded from the inheritance 
of lands by the Salic Law, it would be impossible to explain the 
histories, formulas, and charters, which continually speak of the lands 
and goods of women under the Merovingians/ 

It has been mistakenly said 27 that the Salic lands were fiefs. 1. This 
article is entitled, On Alloidal Lands. 2. In the beginning fiefs were not 
hereditary. 3. If the Salic lands had been fiefs, how could Marculf have 
treated as impious the custom which excluded women from inheriting 
them, for even males did not inherit fiefs? 4. The charters that are cited 
to prove that the Salic lands were fiefs prove only that they were free 
lands/ 5. Fiefs were established only after the conquest, and Salic 
usages existed before the Franks left Germany. 6. It was not the Salic 
Law that, by limiting the inheritance of women, formed the establish- 
ment of fiefs, but rather the ptftablishment of fiefs that put limits on 
both the inheritance of women and the provisions of the Salic Law. 

23 [Lex Ribtiaria) tit. 56 [57]. 

24 [Leges Saxtmum] tit. 7, para. 1 [4 1 J. “The father and mother being dead, they shall leave the 
inheritance to the son, not the daughter” (L.J; para. 4 [44] “They being dead having no 
sons but leaving only a daughter, the entire inheritance belongs to her” [L.J. 

25 In Marculf, bk. 2, form. 12 [Marculfi Formulae 2.12), and the Appendice de Marculfe, form. 
49 [Cartae Senonicae 45]. 

26 In Formulae Salicae Lindenbrogianae, form. 55 [12]. 

27 Du Cange, Pithou, etc. 

Montesquieu calls the ruling families of France the “First,” “Second,” and “Third 
Race.” We refer to them as the Merovingians, Carolingians, and Capetians. See also 
note / bk. 23. 

1 terres ) ranches . Occasionally Montesquieu uses franc, meaning “free”; the instances 
are marked in these notes. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

After what we have just said, one would not believe that the personal 
inheritance by males of the crown of France could come from the Salic 
Law. It is, however, indubitable that it comes from there. I can prove 
this by the various codes of the barbarian peoples. The Salic law 28 and 
the law of the Burgundians 29 did not give daughters the right to inherit 
land with their brothers, nor did they inherit the crown. The law of the 
Visigoths , 30 on the other hand, permitted daughters 31 to inherit land 
with their brothers; women were qualified to inherit the crown. Among 
these peoples, the provisions of the civil law forced the political law . 32 

This was not the only case among the Franks where the political law 
gave way to the civil law. By the provision of the Salic Law, all brothers 
inherited the land equally, and this was also the provision of the law of 
the Burgundians. Thus, in the Frankish monarchy and in that of the 
Burgundians, all the brothers inherited the crown, if we except a few 
cases of violence, murder and usurpation among the Burgundians. 

li [Lex Salka) tit. 62 [D93; S34]. 

29 [Leges Burgundionum) tit. 1, para. 3; tit. 14, para. 1; tit. 51 [1.3; 14.1; 51]. 

30 [i « c Wisigothorum] bk. 4, tit. 2, para. 1 [4.2.1]. 

3l The German nations, says Tacitus, had some usages in common; they also had some 
particular ones. [Germania 27.] 

32 Among the Ostrogoths, the crown passed twice from women to men: once through 
Amalasuntha, in the person of Athalaric, and once through Amalafrede, in the person of 
Theodohad. It is not that, among them, women could not reign for themselves: 
Amalasuntha, after the death of Athalaric, reigned, and reigned even after the election of 
Theodohad and concurrently with him. See the letters of Amalasuntha and those of 
Theodohad, in Cassiodorus [Varioe], bk. 10. 


On the long hair of the Frankish kings 

Peoples who do not cultivate the land do not have even the idea of 
luxury. The admirable simplicity of the Germanic peoples must be 
seen in Tacitus; art did not fashion their ornaments, they found them in 
nature. If the family of their leader was to be marked by some sign, it 
was again in nature that they had to seek it; the kings of the Franks, 
Burgundians, and Visigoths wore their long hair as a diadem. 


Part 3 


On the marriages of the Frankish kings 

I have mentioned earlier that, among peoples who do not cultivate the 
land, marriages were much less fixed and one ordinarily took several 
wives. “The Germans were almost alone 53 among the barbarians to be 
content with a single wife, if one excepts ,” 54 says Tacitus, “some 
persons who, not because of their dissoluteness, but because of their 
nobility, had many.” 

This explains why the Merovingian kings had such a great number of 
wives. These marriages were less an evidence of incontinence than an 
attribute of rank; it would have wounded them in a tender spot to make 
them lose such a prerogative . 35 This explains why the example of the 
kings was not followed by their subjects. 

33 “Almost alone among the barbarians they are content with one wife” [L.]. [Tacitus] 
Germania [18]. 

34 “Except for a very few who are sought for numerous marriages, not on account of lust, but 
rather for their nobility” [L.j. Ibid. [Tacitus, Germania, 18]. 

35 See Fredegarius’ Chronicon for anno 628 [chap. 58]. 



“Marriages among the Germans are severe ;” 36 says Tacitus, “vices are 
not subject to ridicule there; to corrupt or to be corrupted is not called a 
usage or a way of life; in so numerous a nation there are few examples 37 
of the violation of conjugal faith.” 

This explains the expulsion of Childeric; he offended the strict 
mores that conquest had not had time to change. 

36 “A severe code for marriage . . . No one laughs at vice; no one says it is the spirit of the 
times to corrupt and be corrupted” [L.j. [Tacitus] Germania [18, 19]. 

37 “Among such a numerous people, adultery is very rare” [L.J. Ibid. [Tacitus, Germania, 
* 9 ]- 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

chapter 26 

On the coming of age of the Frankish kings 

Barbarian peoples who do not cultivate the land have no territory 
properly so-called and are, as we have said, governed by the right of 
nations rather than by civil right. Therefore, they are almost always 
armed. Thus Tacitus says that “the Germans engaged in no public or 
particular matters of business without being armed . 38 They expressed 
their view by a sign they made with their weapons . 39 As soon as they 
could carry weapons they were presented to the assembly ; 40 a javelin 
was put in their hands ; 41 from this time on they had left behind their 
childhood ; 42 they had been a part of the family, they became part of the 

“Eagles,” said the king of the Ostrogoths , 43 “stop giving food to their 
little ones as soon as their feathers and claws are formed; these little 
ones no longer need the help of others when they themselves go in 
search of prey. It would be shameful if our youth who are in our armies 
were presumed to be too weak to control their own goods or regulate 
the conduct of their lives. Among the Goths it is virtue that sets the 
coming of age.” 

Childebert II was fifteen years old 44 when Guntram, his uncle, 
declared him of age and capable of governing by himself. One sees in 
the law of the Ripuarian Franks that this age of fifteen years, the ability 
to carry arms, and the time of one’s coming of age go together. “If a 
Ripuarian has died or has been killed,” it is said there , 45 “and he has 
left a son, the son cannot go in pursuit, or be pursued in judgment, 

38 “They act upon no business, public or private, unless they are armed” [L.]. Tacitus, 
Germania [13]. 

39 “If the opinions are displeasing, they are spurned; if pleasing, they shake their spears” 
[L.]. Ibid. (Tacitus, Germania , 1 1]. 

^“It is not the custom for one to take up arms before the state has approved his 
competence” [L.]. (Tacitus, Germania, 13]. 

41 “Then, in the council itself, either some prince or his father, or kinsman, equips the youth 
with a shield and spear” [L.]. [Tacitus, Germania, 13.] 

42 “These [arms] are what the toga is to us, the first honor of youth; before, he is part of the 
household; afterward, part of the republic” [L.] [Tacitus, Germania, 13]. 

43 Theodoric, in Cassiodorus \ Variae], bk. 1, letter 38 [1.38]. 

44 He was scarcely more than five, says Gregory of Tours [Historia ecclesiasticafrancorum], bk. 
5, chap. 1 [5.1], when he succeeded to his father in 575; that is, he was five. Guntram 
declared him of age in 585; then he was fifteen. 

45 \Lex Ribuaria] tit. 81 [84]. 


Part 3 

unless he is fully fifteen years old; at that time he will answer for himself 
or choose a champion.” The spirit had to be sufficiently formed for one 
to be able to defend oneself in a judgment, and the body, for one to be 
able to defend oneself in combat. Among the Burgundians , 46 who also 
had the usage of combat in judicial actions, the coming of age was also 
set at fifteen years. 

Agathias tells us that the weapons of the Franks were light; there- 
fore, they could come of age at fifteen. Later, weapons were heavier; 
they were already so in the time of Charlemagne, as is apparent in our 
capitularies and romances. Those who had fiefs , 47 and who conse- 
quently had to do military service, came of age only when they were 
twenty-one . 48 

^ [Leges Burgundionum] tit. 87 [87.1]. 

47 There was no change for common men [roturiers]. 

48 St. Louis came of age only then. This was changed by an edict of Charles V, in 1374. 
[Recueil general des anciennes lots franfaises, #546; 5, 415-424; 1824 edn.] 


Continuation of the same subject 

It has been seen that among the Germans one did not go to the 
assembly before reaching one’s majority; one was part of the family and 
not part of the republic. This caused the children of Ciodomir, King of 
Orleans and conqueror of Burgundy, not to be declared kings because 
they could not be presented to the asembly at their tender age. They 
were not yet kings, but they were to become kings when they were able 
to carry weapons; and, meanwhile Clotilda, their grandmother, gov- 
erned the state . 49 Their uncles Clotaire and Childebert slaughtered 
them and divided their kingdom. Because of this example later princes 
who were wards were declared king immediately after the death of their 
fathers. Thus, Duke Gondovald saved Childebert II from the cruelty of 
Chilperic and had him declared king 50 at the age of five. 

49 It appears in Gregory of T ours, Historia ecclesiastica Francorum, bk. 3 [3 . 1 7], that she chose 
two men from Burgundy, which had been conquered by Ciodomir, to be put on the throne 
at Tours, which was also in Clodomir’s kingdom. 

50 Gregory of Tours [Historia ecclesiastica Francorum ], bk. 5, chap. 1 [5.1): “Although scarcely 
five years old, he began to rule on Christmas Day” [L.]. 


The lam and the nature of the terrain 

But, even with this change, one followed the first spirit of the nation, 
and acts were not passed in the name of kings who were wards. Thus, 
among the Franks there was a double administration, the one concern- 
ing the person of the king who was a ward and the other concerning the 
kingdom; and in the fiefs there was a difference between guardianship 
and bailiffry. 


On adoption among the Germans 

As, among the Germans, one came of age on receiving weapons, one 
was adopted by the same sign. Thus, Guntram, wanting to declare his 
nephew Childebert of age and also to adopt him, told him, “I put 51 this 
javelin in your hands as a sign that I have given you my kingdom.” And, 
turning to the assembly, “You see that my son Childebert has become a 
man; obey him.” When Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, wanted to 
adopt the king of the Heruli, he wrote to him : 52 

it is a fine thing we have, that we can adopt by weapons, for 
courageous men are the only ones who are worthy of becoming our 
children. There is such a force in this act that the one who is the 
object of it will always prefer to die than to suffer something 
shameful. Thus, by the custom of nations, and because you are a 
man, we adopt you by these shields, these swords, and these horses 
that we are sending you. 

51 See Gregory of Tours [. Historia ecclesiastica Francorum ], bk. 7, chap. 23 [7.33]. 

52 In Cassiodorus [Variae] bk. 4, letter 2 [4.2]. 


The bloodthirsty spirit of the Frankish kings 

Clovis was not the only prince among the Franks who undertook 
expeditions into Gaul; many of his relatives had led certain tribes there, 
and as he had greater success and could give important establishments 
to those who had followed him, the Franks flocked to him from all the 


Part 3 

tribes and the other leaders found themselves too weak to resist him. 
He formed the design of exterminating all those of his house and 
succeeded at it . 53 He feared, said Gregory of Tours , 54 that the Franks 
might take another leader. His children and his successors followed 
this practice as much as they could: the brother, the uncle, the nephew 
(what can I say?)/ the son, the father, were seen constantly conspiring 
against the rest of the family. The law constantly divided the monarchy; 
fear, ambition, and cruelty wanted to reunite it. 

53 Gregory of Tours [ Historia ecclesiastica Franco rum], bfc. 2 [2.42 J. 

54 Ibid. [Gregory of Tours, Historia ecclesiastica Francorum 2.42]. 

^Translators’ parentheses. 


On the national assemblies among the Franks 

It has been mentioned earlier that peoples who do not cultivate the land 
enjoyed a great liberty. This was the case for the Germans. Tacitus says 
that they gave their kings or leaders only a very moderate power , 55 and 
Caesar says 56 that they had no common magistrate during peacetime 
but that in each village the princes rendered justice among their own. 
Thus, in Germany the Franks had no king, as Gregory of Tours 57 
proves nicely. 

“Princes ,” 58 says Tacitus, “deliberate on small things, the entire 
nation on large things, in such a way, however, that the matters that are 
within the cognizance of the people are also carried to the princes.” 
This usage was preserved after the conquest, as is seen in all the 
records . 59 

ss “The kings have neither unlimited nor unbounded power [. . .J. Moreover, neither to 
punish, to put in bonds, nor to flog, etc.” [L.J. [Tacitus] Germania [chap. 7]. 

56 “During peacetime there is no common magistrate; instead, the princes of the region and 
cantons give justice among their own people” [L.]. [Gaius Julius Caesar] De hello Gallico, 
bk. 6 [6.23]. 

57 [Gregory of Tours, Historia ecclesiastica Francorum] bk. 2 [2.9]. 

58 “On lesser issues, only the princes consult, on greater ones, everyone; but even when it is a 
decision within the power of the people, first it is thoroughly considered by the princes” 
[L.] [Tacitus] Germania [chap. 11]. 

59 “Law is made by the consensus of the people and the constitution of the king” [L.]. 
Capitularies of Charles the Bald, anno 864, art. 6 [CRF, 273.6]. 


The laws and the nature of the terrain 

Tacitus 60 says that capital crimes could be brought before the 
assembly. It was the same after the conquest, and the great vassals were 
judged there as well. 

60 “In their council it is permitted to consider the accusation of a capital crime” [L.] 
[Tacitus] Germania [12]. 


On the authority of the clergy under the Merovingians 

Among barbarian peoples, priests ordinarily have power because they 
have both the authority, which religion should give them, and the 
power which superstition gives among such peoples. Thus, we see in 
Tacitus that the priests were highly esteemed among the Germans and 
that their presence introduced a police 61 into the assembly of the 
people. They were permitted only 62 to chastise, to bind, and to strike, 
which they did, not by order of the prince, or to inflict a penalty, but as 
by divine inspiration, ever present in those who wage war. 

One must not be surprised if, from the beginning of the reign of the 
Merovingians, bishops are seen to be arbiters 63 of judgments, if they 
are seen appearing in the national assemblies, if they greatly influence 
the resolution of the kings, and if they are given so many goods. 

61 “Silence is commanded by the priests who have the right to keep order” [L.]. [Tacitus] 
Germania [11]. 

62 “The kings have neither unlimited nor unbounded power [. . .]. Moreover, it is only 
permitted to priests to punish, to put in bonds, or to flog; and this is done, not as if it were a 
penalty, or as an order from the leader, but by the command of God, as it were, whom they 
believe to be present in the warrior” [L.]. Ibid. [Tacitus, Germania, 7.] 

63 See Chlotharii regis constitutio generalis, anno 560, art. 6 [CRF, 8.6]. 


^ cfe ^fe. jfe iife. ^fe. jfe jfe jfe. 


jjfe afe ^fe. jfe jfe. jfe ^fe afe ife ^fe 


BOOK 19 

On the laws in their relation with the 
principles forming the general spirit, the 
mores, and the manners of a nation 


On the subject of this book 

This material is very extensive. In this crowd of ideas that present 
themselves in my spirit, I shall be more attentive to the order of things 
than to the things themselves. I must push things away, break through, 
and bring my subject to light. 


How much it is necessary for spirits to be prepared 
for the best laws 

Nothing appeared more intolerable to the Germans 1 than the tribunal 
of Varus. The one that Justinian set up among the Laxians 2 in order to 
try the murderer of their king seemed to them a horrible and barbarous 
thing. Mithridates , 3 inveighing against the Romans, reproached them 
above all for the formal procedures 4 of their justice. The Parthians 
could not tolerate this king who, having been raised in Rome, made 
himself affable 5 and accessible to everyone. Even liberty has appeared 

1 They cut out lawyers’ tongues and said, “Viper, stop hissing.” Tacitus. [Not Tacitus but 
Florus, Epitome rerum Romanorum 2.30.37; 4.12.37.] 

2 Agathias [Historiarum], bk. 4 [4.1-10]. 

3 Justin [Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum], bk. 38 [38.4-7]. 

4 Calumnias litium : “false in litigation.” Ibid. [Justin, Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum 
38 . 7 . 8 ]. 

s Tacitus \Annales 2.2], “The ease with which he could be approached, his affability, were 
virtues unknown to the Parthians and instead they seemed to be new vices” [L.]. 


The spirit , mores, and manners of a nation 

intolerable to peoples who were not accustomed to enjoying it. Thus is 
pure air sometimes harmful to those who have lived in swampy 

When in Pegu, a Venetian named Balbi was brought to the king . 6 
When the latter learned that there was no king in Venice, he laughed so 
much that he began to cough and could scarcely talk to his courtiers. 
What legislator could propose popular government to such peoples? 

6 He described it in 1 596. Recueil des voyages qui ont servi d l 'etablissement de la Compagnie des 
[ndes, vol. 3,pt. i,p. 33. [‘‘Relation du second voiaged’EtiennevanderHage,”3,3o; 1705 
edn; 3, 28; 1725 edn.] 


On tyranny 

There are two sorts of tyranny: a real one, which consists in the violence 
of the government, and one of opinion, which is felt when those who 
govern establish things that run counter to a nation’s way of thinking. 

Dio says that Augustus wanted to be called Romulus, but that, on 
learning that the people feared that he wanted to make himself king, he 
changed his design. The first Romans did not want a king because they 
could not suffer his power; the Romans of the time of Augustus did not 
want a king in order not to suffer his manners. For, although Caesar, 
the triumvirs, and Augustus were real kings, they had preserved an 
appearance of equality and in their private lives they seemed opposed to 
the kingly pomp of that time; and, when the Romans did not want a 
king, this meant that they wanted to keep their own manners and not 
take on those of African and Eastern peoples. 

Dio 7 tells us that the Roman people were very angry with Augustus 
because of certain laws he had made which were too harsh, but that 
their discontent ceased as soon as he brought back the actor Pylades, 
who had been driven out of the town by the factions/ Such a people felt 
tyranny more vividly when a buffoon was driven out than when all their 
laws were taken from them. 

' [Cass. Dio ,HistoriaRomana\ bk. 54, p. 532 [53.16.7, on Romulus; 54.17.4-5, on Pylades]. 

“These factions were based on the allegiances of the fans of the circus. 

Part 3 


What the general spirit is 

Many things govern men: climate, religion, laws, the maxims of the 
government, examples of past things, mores, and manners; a general 
spirit is formed as a result. 

To the extent that, in each nation, one of these causes acts more 
forcefully, the others yield to it. Nature and climate almost alone 
dominate savages; manners govern the Chinese; laws tyrannize Japan; 
in former times mores set the tone in Lacedaemonia; in Rome it was set 
by the maxims of government and the ancient mores. 


Hojp careful one must be not to change the 
general spirit of a nation 

If there were in the world a nation which had a sociable humor, an 
openness of heart; a joy in life, a taste, an ease in communicating its 
thoughts; which was lively, pleasant, playful, sometimes imprudent, 
often indiscreet; and which had with all that, courage, generosity, 
frankness, and a certain point of honor, one should avoid disturbing its 
manners by laws, in order not to disturb its virtues. If the character is 
generally good, what difference do a few faults make? 

One could constrain its women, make laws to correct their mores, 
and limit their luxury, but who knows whether one would not lose a 
certain taste that would be the source of the nation’s wealth and a 
politeness that attracts foreigners to it? 

The legislator is to follow the spirit of the nation when doing so is not 
contrary to the principles of the government, for we do nothing better 
than what we do freely and by following our natural genius. 

If one gives a pedantic spirit to a nation naturally full of gaiety, the 
state will gain nothing, either at home or abroad. Let it do frivolous 
things seriously and serious things gaily. 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

chapter 6 

That one must not correct everything 

May we be left as we are, said a gentleman of a nation closely 
resembling the one of which we have just given an idea. Nature repairs 
everything. It has given us a vivacity capable of offending and one apt to 
make us inconsiderate; this same vivacity is corrected by the politeness 
it brings us, by inspiring us with a taste for the world and above all for 
commerce with women. 

May we be left as we are. Our discretions joined to our harmlessness 
make unsuitable such laws as would curb our sociable humor. 


On the Athenians and Lacedaemonians 

The Athenians, continued this gentleman, were a people who had 
some relation with our own. They put gaiety in their public business; a 
joke from the rostrum pleased them as much as one in the theater. The 
vivacity they put into counsels was carried over into their execution. 
The character of the Lacedaemonians was grave, serious, dry, taciturn. 
One would have made no better use of an Athenian by boring him than 
of a Lacedaemonian by amusing him. 


Some effects of the sociable humor 

The more communicative peoples are, the more easily they change 
their manners, because each man is more a spectacle for another; one 
sees the singularities of individuals better. The climate that makes a 
nation like to communicate also makes it like to change, and what 
makes a nation like to change also makes its taste take form. 

The society of women spoils mores and forms taste; the desire to 
please more than others establishes ornamentation, and the desire to 

Part 3 

please more than oneself establishes fashions. Fashions are an import- 
ant subject; as one allows one’s spirit to become frivolous, one 
constantly increases the branches of commerce . 8 

s See [Bernard Mandeville] The Fable of the Bees [i, 250-254; 1732 edn; remarkT, 1, 225- 
228; 1924 edn}. 


On the vanity and the arrogance of nations 

Vanity is as good a spring for a government as arrogance is a dangerous 
one. To show this, one has only to imagine* to oneself, on the one hand, 
the innumerable goods resulting from vanity: luxury, industry, the arts, 
fashions, politeness, and taste, and, on the other hand, the infinite evils 
born of the arrogance of certain nations: laziness, poverty, the 
abandonment of everything, and the destruction of the nations that 
chance has let fall into their hands as well as their own nation. Laziness 9 
is the effect of arrogance; work follows from vanity: the arrogance of a 
Spaniard will incline him not to work; the vanity of a Frenchman will 
incline him to try to work better than the others. 

Every lazy nation is grave; for those who do not work regard 
themselves as sovereigns of those who work. 

Examine all the nations and you will see that in most of them gravity, 
arrogance, and laziness go hand in hand. 

The people of Achim 10 are proud and lazy: those who have no slaves 
rent one, if only to walk a hundred steps and carry two pints of rice; they 
would believe themselves dishonored if they carried it themselves. 

In many places on earth people let their fingernails grow in order to 
indicate that they do not work. 

9 The peoples who follow the Khan of Malacamber, those of Camataca and Coromandel, 
are proud and lazy; they consume little because they are miserably poor; whereas the 
Moguls and the peoples of Hindustan concern themselves with and enjoy the comforts of 
life, like Europeans. Recueil des voyages qui ontservi a I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes , 
vol. 1, p. 54 [“Avis sur le Commerce des Indes Orientales”; i, liv; 1725 edn]. 
l0 See [William] Dampier [Voyages], vol. 3 [vol. 2, pt. 1, chap. 7; 2, 56 and 62; 1906 

k se representer. 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

Women in the Indies 11 believe it is shameful for them to learn to 
read; this is the business, they say, of the slaves who sing hymns in the 
pagodas. In one caste, they do not spin; in another they make only 
baskets and mats, and should not even mill the rice; in others, they must 
not fetch water. Arrogance there has established its rules and sees that 
they are followed. It is unnecessary to say that moral qualities have 
different effects according to the other qualities united with them; thus 
arrogance joined to a vast ambition, to the greatness of ideas, etc. 
produced among the Romans the effects which are known to all/ 

il Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, vol. 12, p. 80 [Lettre du P. de Bourzes, Madura, September 
21, 1713; 12, 79-80; 1741 edn]. 

^See the discussion of honor, 3.5-8. 


On the character of the Spanish and that of the Chinese 

The various characters of the nations are mixtures of virtues and vices, 
of good and bad qualities. The happy mixtures are those that result in 
great goods, and one often would not expect them; some result in great 
evils, and one would not expect them either. 

The good faith of the Spaniards has been famous in all times. 
Justin 12 tells us of their faithfulness in guarding deposits; they have 
often suffered death to keep them secret. The faithfulness they had of 
old they still have today. All the nations that trade in Cadiz entrust their 
fortunes to the Spanish; they have never repented of it. But this 
admirable quality joined to their laziness forms a mixture whose effects 
are pernicious to them; before their very eyes the peoples of Europe 
carry on all the commerce of their monarchy. 

The mixture that forms the Chinese character contrasts with the 
mixture that forms the Spanish character. The precariousness of their 
lives 13 makes them so prodigiously active and so excessively desirous of 
gain that no commercial nation can trust them . 14 This acknowledged 

12 [Justin, Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum] bk. 43 [44.2.3]. 

13 Because of the nature of the climate and the terrain. 

l4 Father [Jean BaptisteJ du Halde [Description delEmpirede la Chine], vol. 2 [“Du commerce 
du Chinois”; 2, 205 H; 2, 170-172 P], 


unfaithfulness has preserved Japanese commerce for the Chinese; no 
European trader has dared undertake it in their name, however easy 
this might have been for their maritime provinces in the north. 



I have not said this to diminish in any way the infinite distance there is 
between vices and virtues: God forbid! I have only wanted to make it 
understood that not all political vices are moral vices and that not all 
moral vices are political vices, and those who make laws that run 
counter to the general spirit should not be ignorant of this. 


On manners and mores in the despotic state 

It is a maxim of capital importance that the mores and manners of a 
despotic state must never be changed; nothing would be more promptly 
followed by a revolution. For, in these states, there are no laws, so to 
speak; there are only mores and manners, and if you overturn them, you 
overturn everything. 

Laws are established, mores are inspired; the latter depend more on 
the general spirit, the former depend more on a particular institution; 
now, it is as dangerous, if not more so, to overturn the general spirit as 
to change a particular institution. 

One is less communicative in countries where each man, whether a 
superior or an inferior, exercises and suffers an arbitrary power, than in 
those in which liberty reigns in all conditions. Therefore, one changes 
manners and mores less in them; manners that are more fixed are 
closer to laws: thus, a prince or a legislator must run counter to mores 
there less than in any other country in the world. 

Women are ordinarily enclosed there and have no tone to give. In 
other countries where they live with men, their desire to please and 
one’s desire to please them too prompt one to change manners 

The spirit , mores, and manners of a nation 

continually. The two sexes spoil each other; each loses its distinctive 
and essential quality; arbitrariness is put into what was absolute, and 
manners change every day. 


On manners among the Chinese 

But in China manners are indestructible. Not only are the women 
completely separated from the men there, but one teaches manners as 
well as mores in the schools. A lettered person is known 15 by his fashion 
of bowing graciously. These things, once given as precepts by grave 
scholars, are fixed as principles of morality and no longer change. 

15 So says Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description del’Empire de la Chine, “Extrait d’un 
livTe Chinois intitule l’Arte de rendre le peuple heureux en etablissant des Ecoles 
publiques”; 2, 310-319 H; 2, 259-266 P; 2, 297-304 L.]. 


What are the natural means of changing the mores 
and manners of a nation 

We have said that the laws were the particular and precise institutions 
of the legislator and the mores and manners, the institutions of the 
nation in general. From this it follows that when one wants to change 
the mores and manners, one must not change them by the laws, as this 
would appear to be too tyrannical; it would be better to change them by 
other mores and other manners. 

Thus, when a prince wants to make great changes in his nation, he 
must reform by laws what is established by laws and change by manners 
what is established by manners, and it is a very bad policy to change by 
laws what should be changed by manners. 

The law that obliged the Muscovites to shorten their beards and 
their clothing and the violence of Peter I in trimming up to the knees 
the long robes of those who entered the towns were both tyrannical. 
The means for preventing crimes are penalties; the means for changing 
manners are examples. 


Part 3 

The ease and promptness with which this nation has become 
orderly"' has shown that this prince had too low an opinion of it and that 
these peoples were not beasts as he said. The violent means he 
employed were useless; he would have accomplished his purpose as 
well by gentleness. 

He himself saw how easy it was to make changes. The women had 
been enclosed and in a way enslaved; he called them to court, he had 
them dress in the German way, and he sent them fabrics. They 
immediately appreciated a way of life that so flattered their taste, their 
vanity, and their passions, and they made the men appreciate it. 

What made the change easier was that the mores of that time were 
foreign to the climate and had been carried there by the mixture of 
nations and by conquests. Peter found it easier than he had expected to 
give the mores and manners of Europe to a European nation. The 
empire of climate is the first of all empires. Therefore, he did not need 
laws to change the mores and manners of his nation; it would have been 
sufficient for him to inspire other mores and other manners. 

In general, peoples are very attached to their customs; taking their 
customs from them violently makes them unhappy: therefore, one must 
not change their customs, but engage the peoples to change them 

Every penalty that does not derive from necessity is tyrannical. The 
law is not a pure act of power; things indifferent by their nature are not 
within its scope/ 

d . , . cette nation s ’est policee. 'res sort. See note a , bk. 12. 


Influence of domestic government on political government 

This change in the mores of women will no doubt affect the govern- 
ment of Muscovy very much. Everything is closely linked together: the 
despotism of the prince is naturally united with the servitude of women; 
the liberty of women, with the spirit of monarchy. 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

chapter 16 

How some legislators have confused the principles 
that govern men 

Mores and manners are usages that laws have not established, or that 
they have not been able, or have not wanted, to establish. 

The difference between laws and mores is that, while laws regulate 
the actions of the citizen, mores regulate the actions of the man. The 
difference between mores and manners is that the first are more 
concerned with internal, and the latter external, conduct. 

Sometimes in a state these things are confused with one another . 16 
Lycurgus made a single code for the laws, the mores and the manners, 
and the legislators of China did the same. 

One must not be astonished if the legislators of Lacedaemonia and 
those of China confused laws, mores, and manners; this is because 
mores represent laws, and manners represent mores. 

The principal object of the Chinese legislators was to have their 
people live in tranquility. They wanted men to have much respect for 
each other; they wanted each one to feel at every instant that he owed 
much to the others; they wanted every citizen to depend, in some 
respect, on another citizen. Therefore, they extended the rules of 
civility to a great many people. 

Thus, among the Chinese peoples, one sees villagers 17 observe 
between themselves ceremonies like those of people of a higher 
condition; this is a very proper means of inspiring gentleness, of 
maintaining peace and good order among the people, and of removing 
all the vices that come from a harsh spirit. Indeed, is not freeing oneself 
from the rules of civility the way one seeks to put oneself more at ease 
with one’s faults? 

Civility is preferable, in this regard, to politeness. Politeness flatters 
the vices of others, and civility keeps us from displaying our own; it is a 
barrier that men put between themselves in order to keep from being 

Lycurgus, whose institutions were harsh, did not have civility as an 

,6 Moses made a single code of laws and religion. The first Romans mixed together the old 
customs and the laws. 

17 See Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de I'Empire de la Chine, “De la morale du 
Chinois”; 3, 157 H; 3, 129-130 P]. 


Part 3 

object when he formed manners; he had in view the bellicose spirit he 
wanted to give his people. Always correcting or being corrected, always 
instructing and being instructed, as simple as they were rigid, these people 
practiced virtues for each other, rather than showing them regard. 


A property peculiar to the government of China 

The legislators of China did more: 18 they confused religion, laws, 
mores, and manners; all was morality, all was virtue. The precepts 
concerning these four points were what one called rites. It was in the 
exact observation of these rites that the Chinese government trium- 
phed. One passed all of one’s youth learning them, all of one’s life 
practicing them. The scholars taught them; the magistrates preached 
them. And, as these rites encompassed all the minor activities of life, 
China was well governed when a way was found to make them be 
observed exactly. 

Two things made it possible to engrave these rites easily in the hearts 
and spirits of the Chinese: the one, their extremely complicated 
manner of writing which kept their spirits solely occupied with these 
rites for a great part of their lives 19 because one had to learn to read 
from the books and for the sake of the books that contained them, the 
other, that as the precepts of rites are in no way spiritual but are simply 
rules of common practice, it is easier to convince and to stamp spirits 
with them than with something intellectual. 

Those princes who, instead of governing by the rites, governed by 
the force of punishments, wanted to have punishments do what is not in 
their power, which is to give mores. Punishments will cast out of society 
a citizen who, having lost his mores, violates the laws, but if everyone 
loses his mores, will punishments reestablish them? Punishments will 
indeed check many consequences of the general evil, but they will not 
correct this evil. Thus, when one abandoned the principles of Chinese 
government, when morality was lost there, the state fell into anarchy 
and one saw revolutions. 

18 See the classic books of which Father du Halde has given us such a fine selection. 

[ Description de I’Empire de la Chine, 2, 340-458 H; 2, 284-383 P.] 
l9 This is what established emulation, flight from laziness, and high esteem for knowledge. 


The spirit , mores , and manners of a nation 

chapter 18 

Consequence of the preceding chapter 

The result of this is that conquest does not make China lose its laws. As 
manners, mores, laws, and religion are but the same thing there, one 
cannot change all of that at once. And, as either the vanquisher or the 
vanquished must change, in China it has always had to be the 
vanquisher; for, as the mores of the vanquishers are not their manners, 
nor their manners, their laws, nor their laws, their religion, it has been 
easier for the vanquishers to bend slowly to the vanquished people than 
for the vanquished people to bend to the vanquishers. 

A very sad thing also follows from this; it is almost impossible for 
Christianity ever to be established in China . 20 The vows of virginity, the 
assembly of women in churches, their necessary communication with 
the ministers of religion, their participation in the sacraments, the 
auricular confession, extreme unction, marriage to a single woman, all 
this overthrows the mores and manners of the country and strikes 
against the religion and the laws at the same time. 

The Christian religion, by the establishment of charity, by a public 
worship, and by participation in the same sacraments, seems to require 
that everything be united; the rites of the Chinese seem to order that 
everything be separate. 

And, as one has seen that such separation 21 is generally linked to the 
spirit of despotism, one will find in this a reason why monarchical 
government, indeed any moderate government, makes a better 
alliance 22 with the Christian religion. 

20 See the reasons given by the Chinese magistrates in the decrees they made to proscribe the 
Christian religion. Lettres edifiantes et cvrieuses, vol. 17 [Lettre du P. de Mailla, Peking, 
October 16, 1724; 17, 167-170; 1726 edn], 

21 See bk. 4, chap. 3, and bk. 19, chap. 12 (above). 

22 See below, bk. 24, chap. 3. 


Part 3 


How this union of religion , laws, mores, and manners was 
made among the Chinese 

The Chinese legislators had the tranquility of the empire as the 
principal object of government. Subordination seemed to them the 
most appropriate means of maintaining it. As part of this idea they 
believed they should inspire respect for the fathers, and they brought 
together all their forces to do so. They established an infinity of rites 
and ceremonies in order to honor fathers during their life and after 
death. It was impossible to give so much honor to the dead fathers 
without being drawn to honor the living ones. Ceremonies for dead 
fathers were more related to religion, and those for living fathers more 
related to the laws, mores, and manners; but these were only parts of a 
single code, and this code was very far-reaching. 

Respect for fathers necessarily involved everything that represented 
fathers, old men, teachers, magistrates, the emperor. Respect for 
fathers implies that a love be returned to children and, as a conse- 
quence, implies the return of love from the elders to the young people, 
from the magistrates to those who were subject to them, from the 
emperor to his subjects. All this formed the rites, and these rites 
formed the general spirit of the nation. 

One can feel the relation that China’s fundamental constitution can 
have with things that are seemingly indifferent to it. This empire is 
formed on the idea of family government. If you diminish paternal 
authority or if you even withdraw the ceremonies that express one’s 
respect for it, you weaken the respect for magistrates, who are regarded 
as fathers; magistrates will no longer have the same care for the peoples 
whom they should consider as their children; the relation of love 
between the prince and his subjects will also be gradually lost. Omit 
one of these practices, and you shake the state. It is quite indifferent in 
itself whether a daughter-in-law gets up every morning to perform 
such and such duties for a mother-in-law; but if one notes that these 
external practices constantly call one back to a feeling, which it is 
necessary to impress on all hearts, and which comes from all hearts to 
form the spirit that governs the empire, one will see that it is necessary 
for a certain particular action to be performed. 


The spirit , mores, and manners of a nation 


Explanation of a paradox about the Chinese 

It is strange that the Chinese, whose life is entirely directed by rites, are 
nevertheless the most unscrupulous people on earth. This appears 
chiefly in commerce, which has never been able to inspire in them the 
good faith natural to it. The buyer should carry his own scale 23 as each 
merchant has three of them, a heavy one for buying, a light one for 
selling, and an accurate one for those who are on their guard. I believe 1 
can explain this contradiction. 

Chinese legislators have had two objects: they have wanted the 
people to be both submissive and tranquil, and hardworking and 
industrious. Because of the nature of the climate and the terrain, their 
life is precarious; one secures one’s life there only by dint of industry 
and work. 

When everyone obeys and everyone works, the state is in a fortunate 
situation. Necessity and perhaps the nature of the climate have given all 
the Chinese an unthinkable avidity for gain, and the laws have not 
dreamed of checking it. Everything has been prohibited if it is a 
question of acquisition by violence; everything has been permitted if it 
is a matter of obtaining by artifice or by industry. Therefore, let us not 
compare the morality of China with that of Europe. Everyone in China 
has had to be attentive to what was useful to him; if the rascal has 
watched over his interests, he who is duped has had to think of his own. 
In Lacedaemonia, stealing was permitted; in China, deceit is 

23 Recueil de voyages au nord, vol. 8, p. 363, Lange, Journal for 1721 and 1722 [8, 363; 1727 


How laws should be relative to the mores and the manners 

Only singular institutions thus confuse laws, mores, and manners, 
things that are naturally separate; but, even though they are separate, 
they are still closely related. 


Part 3 

Solon was asked if the laws he had given to the Athenians were the 
best; “I have given them the best laws they could endure,” he replied: 
this is a fine speech that should be heard by all legislators. When the 
divine wisdom said to the Jewish people, “I have given you precepts that 
are not good,” this meant that the precepts were only relatively good, 
which sponges away all the difficulties one can propose about the 
Mosaic laws. 


Continuation of the same subject 

When a people have good mores, laws become simple. Plato says 24 that 
Rhadamanthus, who governed an extremely religious people, dis- 
patched all trials speedily by having only an oath sworn on each count. 
But, Plato also says , 25 when a people are not religious, one can use the 
oath only on the occasions when those who swear it, such as the judge 
and witnesses, are without interest. 

24 [Plato] Laws, bk. 12 [948b— d]. 25 Ibid. [Plato, Laws, 948c-d). 


How the laws follow mores 

At the time when the mores of the Romans were pure, there was no 
specific law against embezzlement. When this crime began to appear, it 
was deemed so infamous that to be condemned to restore what one had 
taken 26 was regarded as a great penalty: witness the judgment against 
L. Scipio . 27 

26 /n simplum : “the simple value.” 27 Livy, bk. 38 [38.60]. 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

chapter 24 

Continuation of the same subject 

The laws that give guardianship to the mother are more attentive to the 
preservation of the persoi/ of the ward; those that give it to the closest 
heir are more attentive to the preservation of the goods. Among peoples 
whose mores are corrupt, it is preferable to give the guardianship to the 
mother. Among those whose laws should trust the mores of the 
citizens, one gives the guardianship to the heir of the goods, or to the 
mother, and sometimes to both of them. 

If one reflects on the Roman laws, one will find that their spirit 
conforms to what I say. At the time when the Law of the Twelve Tables 
was made, mores in Rome were admirable. One gave the guardianship 
to the closest relative of the ward, thinking that he who could have the 
advantage of the inheritance should have the charge of the guardian- 
ship. It was not believed that the life of a ward was in danger although it 
was put in the hands of one to whom the ward’s death could be useful. 
But, when mores changed in Rome, legislators were also seen to 
change their way of thinking. “If, in appointing guardians for the 
ward,” says Gaius 28 and Justinian , 29 “the testator fears that the person 
appointed will plot against the ward, he can leave the vulgar substitu- 
tion 30 open and put the wardship in a part of the will that can be 
disclosed only after a certain time.” These fears and precautions were 
unknown to the first Romans. 

28 [Gaius] Institutes, bk. 2, tit. 6, para. 2; Ozel compilation, Leyden, 1658 [2.6.2]. 

2t> [Corpus Juris Civtlis] Institutes, bk. 2, para. 3 [2.3]; de pupillari substitution. 

30 The vulgar substitution is: “if so and so does not take the inheritance, I appoint instead of 
him ...” etc.; the substitution of a guardian [pupillary] is: “If a certain one dies before [the 
ward’s] puberty, I appoint instead of him . . .” etc. 

^“Person” is distinguished here from estate, title, etc. 


Part 3 


Continuation of the same subject 

Roman law gave people the liberty to give gifts to one another before 
marriage; after marriage it no longer permitted them. This was 
founded on the mores of the Romans, who were drawn to marriage only 
by frugality, simplicity, and modesty, but who might be seduced by 
domestic cares, by kindness, and by the happiness of a complete life. 

The law of the Visigoths 31 wanted the husband to be kept from giving 
more than a tenth of his goods to the one he was to many and to be kept 
from giving her anything during the first year of his marriage. This 
comes, in addition, from the mores of the country. The legislators 
wanted to check that Spanish boastfulness which is drawn only to 
excessive liberalities dramatically displayed. 

The Romans, by their laws, checked some of the defects of the most 
durable empire in the world, that of virtue; the Spanish, by their laws, 
wanted to halt the worst effects of the most fragile tyranny in the world, 
that of beauty. 

31 [Lex Wisigothorum \ bk. 3, tit. 1, para. 5 [3.1.5]. 


Continuation of the same subject 

The law of Theodosius and Valentinian 32 took the causes for repudi- 
ation from the earlier mores 33 and manners of the Romans. It put 
among those causes the actions of a husband 34 who chastised his wife in 
the manner unworthy of a freeborn person. This cause was omitted 
from later laws ; 35 this is because the mores had changed in this regard; 
the usages of the East had taken the place of those of Europe. The first 
eunuch of the empress, wife of Justinian II, threatened her, history 

32 Law 8 of the Code [Corpus Juris Crvilis, Code 5.17.8]; de repudiis et judicio de moribus sublato. 

33 And from the law of the Twelve Tables. See Cicero, Philippicae [2.28.69]. 

34 “If he be proven to have used whips, a thing unsuitable for any freeborn person” [L.] 
[Corpus Juris Civilis, Code; de repudiis et judicio de moribus sublato .] 

3S In [Corpus Juris Crvilis] Novellae 1 17, chap. 14 [1 17.14]. 


The spirit , mores, and manners of a nation 

says, with the chastisement used to punish children in schools. Only 
established mores or mores seeking to establish themselves could make 
such a thing imaginable. 

We have seen how laws follow mores; let us now see how mores 
follow laws. 


How lam can contribute to forming the mores, manners, 
and character of a nation 

The customs of a slave people are a part of their servitude; those of a 
free people are a part of their liberty. 

I have spoken in Book n 36 of a free people, and I have given the 
principles of their constitution; let us see the effects that had to follow, 
the character that was formed from it, and the manners that result from 

I do not say that the climate has not in large part produced the laws, 
the mores, and the manners of this nation, but I say that the mores and 
the manners of this nation should be closely related to its laws. 

Since in this state there would be two visible powers, legislative 
power and executive power, and as each citizen would have his own will 
and would value his independence according to his taste, most people 
would have more affection for one of these powers than for the other, as 
the multitude is ordinarily not fair or sensible enough to have equal 
affection for both of them. 

And, as the executive power, which has all the posts at its disposal, 
could furnish great expectations but not fears, all those who would 
obtain something from it would be inclined to move to that side, and it 
could be attacked by all those who could expect nothing from it. 

As all the passions are free there, hatred, envy, jealousy, and the 
ardor for enriching and distinguishing oneself would appear to their 
full extent, and if this were otherwise, the state would be like a man 
who, laid low by disease, has no passions because he has no strength. 

The hatred between the two parties would endure because it would 
always be powerless. 

36 [Bk. 11J chap. 6 [above]. 


Part 3 

As these parties are made up of free men, if one party gained too 
much, the effect of liberty would be to lower it while the citizens would 
come and raise the other party like hands rescuing the body. 

As each individual, always independent, would largely follow his own 
caprices and his fantasies, he would often change parties; he would 
abandon one and leave all his friends in order to bind himself to 
another in which he would find all his enemies; and often, in this 
nation, he could forget both the laws of friendship and those of hatred. 

The monarch would be in the same situation as the individuals; and, 
against the ordinary maxims of prudence, he would often be obliged to 
put his trust in those who had most run counter to him and to disgrace 
those who had best served him, doing by necessity what other princes 
do by choice. 

One is afraid of seeing the escape of a good that one feels, that one 
scarcely knows, and that can be hidden from us; and fear always 
enlarges objects. The people would be uneasy about their situation and 
would believe themselves in danger even at the safest moments. 

As those who would most sharply oppose executive power would be 
unable to admit the interested motives of their opposition, they would 
increase even more the terrors of the people, who would never know 
precisely whether or not they were in danger. But even this would help 
them avoid the real perils to which they might sometimes be 

But, as the legislative body has the trust of the people and is more 
enlightened than they, it could make them revise the bad impressions 
they had been given and calm these emotions. 

This is the great advantage such a government would have over the 
ancient democracies, in which the people had an immediate power; for, 
when the orators agitated them, these agitations always had their effect. 

Thus, if the terrors impressed on a people had no certain object, they 
would produce only empty clamors and insults and would even have the 
good effect of stretching all the springs of the government and making 
all the citizens attentive. But, if those terrors arose on the occasion of 
the overthrow of fundamental laws, they would be insidious, lamen- 
table, and heinous, and would produce catastrophes. 

One would soon see an awful calm, during which everything would 
unite together against the power that violated the laws. 

If, in the case where uneasiness has no certain object, some foreign 
power threatened the state and put its fortune or glory in danger, at that 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

time everything would unite in favor of executive power, as small 
interests would cede to greater ones. 

For, if disputes were formed on the occasion of the violation of the 
fundamental laws and a foreign power appeared, there would be a 
revolution that would not change the form of the government or its 
constitution, as revolutions formed by liberty are but a confirmation of 

A free nation can have a liberator; a subjugated nation can have only 
another oppressor. 

For any man who has enough strength to drive out the one who is 
already the absolute master in a state has enough strength to become 
one himself. 

Because, in order to enjoy liberty, each must be able to say what he 
thinks and because, in order to preserve it, each must still be able to say 
what he thinks, a citizen in this state would say and write everything that 
the laws had not expressly prohibited him from saying or writing. 

This nation, always heated, could more easily be led by its passions 
than by reason, which never produces great effects on the spirits of 
men, and it would be easy for those who governed it to make it 
undertake enterprises against its true interests. 

This nation would love its liberty prodigiously because this liberty 
would be true; and it could happen that, in order to defend that liberty, 
the nation might sacrifice its goods, its ease, and its interests, and might 
burden itself with harsher imposts than even the most absolute prince 
would dare make his subjects bear. 

But, as this nation would know with certainty that it was necessary to 
submit to them, as it would pay them in the well-founded expectation of 
not having to pay more, the burdens would be heavier than the feeling 
of these burdens, whereas there are states in which the feeling is 
infinitely worse than the ill. 

This nation would have secure credit because it would borrow from 
itself and would pay to itself. It could happen that it would undertake 
something beyond the forces natural to it and would assert against its 
enemies an immense fictional wealth that the trust and the nature of its 
government would make real. 

In order to preserve its liberty, it would borrow from its subjects, and 
its subjects, who would see that its credit would be lost if it were 
conquered, would have a further motive to make efforts to defend its 


Part 3 

In addition, as they would in some way be answerable for the events 
to which an indirect course could give rise, the surest thing for them 
would be to take the straightest road. 

If at certain times the nobles had an immoderate power in the nation 
and the monarch had found the way to debase them while raising up the 
people, the point of extreme servitude would be between the moment 
of the debasement of the important men and the one when the people 
began to feel their power. 

It could be that this nation, having formerly been subject to an 
arbitrary power, would, on many occasions, have preserved that style so 
that one would often see the form of an absolute government over the 
foundation of a free government. 

With regard to religion, as in this state each citizen would have his 
own will and would consequently be led by his own enlightenment or 
his fantasies, what would happen is either that everyone would be ve^y 
indifferent to all sorts of religion of whatever kind, in which case 
everyone would tend to embrace the dominant religion, or that one 
would be zealous for religion in general, in which case sects would 

It would not be impossible for there to be in this nation people who 
had no religion and who would not for all that want to be obliged to 
change the one they would have had if they had had one, for they would 
immediately feel that life and goods are no more theirs than their way of 
thinking and that he who can rob them of the one can more easily take 
away the other. 

If, among the different religions, there were one whose establish- 
ment had been attempted by means of slavery, it would be odious there 
because, as we judge things by what we associate with them or see as 
dependent upon them, such a religion would never come to mind 
together with the idea of liberty. 

The laws against those who would profess this religion would not be 
bloodthirsty, for liberty does not imagine these sorts of penalties, but 
they would be so repressive that they would do all the evil that can be 
done in cold blood. 

It could happen in a thousand ways that the clergy would have so 
little credit that the other citizens would have more. Thus, instead of 
being separate, they would prefer to bear the same burden as the lay 
people and, in that regard, make up only one body, but still seeking 
to be respected by the people, they would distinguish themselves 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

by a more retired life, a more reserved conduct, and purer motives. 

This clergy, unable to protect religion or to be protected by it, 
lacking force to constrain, would seek to persuade; very fine works 
would come from their pens, written to prove the revelation and the 
providence of the great being. 

It could happen that one would frustrate their assemblies and would 
not want to permit the clergy to correct even their abuses and that, in a 
frenzy of liberty, one would rather leave their reform imperfect than 
suffer them to be the reformers. 

The high positions that are a part of the fundamental constitution 
would be more fixed than elsewhere, but, on the other hand, the 
important men in this country of liberty would be closer to the people; 
therefore, ranks would be more separate and persons more confused. 

As those who govern would have a power that revives, so to speak, 
and is remade daily, they would have more regard for those who are 
useful to them than for those who divert them; thus, one would see 
there few courtiers, flatterers, and fawners, and finally, all those kinds 
of people who take advantage of the very emptiness of spirit of the 
important men. 

Men would scarcely be judged there by frivolous talents or 
attributes, but by real qualities, and of these there are only two, wealth 
and personal merit. 

There would be a solid luxury, founded not on the refinement of 
vanity, but on that of real needs, and one would scarcely seek in things 
any but the pleasures nature had put there. 

One would enjoy a great superfluity there, but nevertheless frivolous 
things would be proscribed; thus, because many men would have more 
goods than occasions for expenditure, they would employ them 
eccentrically, and in this nation there would be more wit than taste. 

As one would always be busy with one’s own interests, one would not 
have the politeness that is founded on idleness, and one would really 
have no time for it. 

The epoch of Roman politeness is the same as that of the establish- 
ment of arbitrary power. Absolute government produces idleness, and 
idleness gives birth to politeness. 

The more people there are in a nation who need to deal with each 
other and not cause displeasure, the more politeness there is. But we 
should be distinguished from barbarous peoples more by the politeness 
of mores than by that of manners. 


Part 3 

In a nation where each man in his own way would take part in the 
administration of the state, the women should scarcely live among men. 
Therefore, women would be modest, that is, timid; this timidity would 
be their virtue, whereas the men, lacking gallantry, would throw 
themselves into a debauchery that would leave them their liberty as well 
as their leisure. 

As the laws there would not be made for one individual more than 
another, each would regard himself as the monarch; the men in this 
nation would be confederates more than fellow citizens. 

If the climate had given a restless spirit and a broad view to many 
people in a country where the constitution gave everyone a part in the 
government along with political interests, one would talk much about 
politics; one would see people who spent their lives calculating about 
events, which, given the nature of things and the caprice of fortune 
(that is of men), A are scarcely subject to calculation. 

In a free nation it often does not matter whether individuals reason 
well or badly; it suffices that they reason; from that comes the liberty 
that protects them from the effects of these same reasonings. 

Similarly, in a despotic government, it is equally pernicious whether 
one reasons well or badly; it suffices that one reason to run counter to 
the principle of the government. 

The many people who would not worry about pleasing anyone would 
abandon themselves to their own humor. The majority who are witty 
would be tormented by that very wit;’ having disdain or disgust for 
everything, they would be unhappy while having so many grounds not 
to be so. 

As no citizen would fear another citizen, this nation would be proud, 
for the pride of kings is founded only on their independence. 

Free nations are haughty; others can more easily be vain. 

But these men who are so proud, living mostly alone with them- 
selves, would often find themselves among unfamiliar people; they 
would be timid, and one would see in them, most of the time, a strange 
mixture of bashfulness and pride. 

The character of the nation would appear above all in the works of 
the mind in which one would see a withdrawn people, each of whom 
thought alone. 

* Translators’ parentheses. 

'Here esprit is translated “wit”, although the reader needs to keep in mind Mon- 
tesquieu’s more general notion of “spirit,” that is, of directed activity. 


The spirit, mores, and manners of a nation 

Society teaches us to feel the ridiculous; retirement makes us more 
apt to feel vices. Their satirical writings would be scathing, and one 
would see many Juvenals among them before finding a Horace. 

In extremely absolute monarchies, historians betray the truth 
because they do not have the liberty to tell it; in extremely free states, 
they betray truth because of their very liberty for, as it always produces 
divisions, each one becomes as much the slave of the prejudices of his 
faction as he would be of a despot. 

Their poets would more often have an original bluntness of inven- 
tion than a certain delicacy of taste; one would find there something 
closer to Michelangelo’s strength than to Raphael’s grace. 


Part 4 

jfo. .sfe jfe ^ jfc jfe jfe jfc ^fe ^fe ^fe. jfe jfe ^tfi. jfe ^tc. ^fe. jfe jfe ^fe jjk ife jfe 


BOOK 20 

On the laws in their relation to 
commerce, considered in its nature 
and its distinctions 

That which great Atlas taught. 


Invocation to the Muses* 

Virgins of the Pierian Mount , 1 do you hear the name I give you? Inspire 
me. I have run a long course. I am crushed by pain, fatigue, and worry. 
Give my spirit the calm and the gentleness that now flee from me. You 
are never as divine as when you lead to wisdom and truth through 

But if you do not want to soften the harshness of my labors, conceal 
the labor itself. Make it so that I meditate though I appear to feel. Make 
it so that one is instructed though I do not teach and that, when I 
announce useful things, one believes that I knew nothing and that you 
told me everything. 

When the waters of your spring come forth from your beloved rock, 
they rise into the air not to fall back again but to flow over the meadow; 
they are your delight because they are the delight of the shepherds. 

Charming Muses, if you cast me but a single glance, everyone will 
read my works, and what was not intended as an amusement will be a 

Divine Muses, I sense that you inspire me, not just what is sung in 
Tempe with the pipes or what is repeated at Delos on the lyre. You also 
want me to make reason speak. It is the noblest, the most perfect, the 
most exquisite of our senses. 

1 “Speak on, O ye Pierian maidens, if it be proper for me to call you maidens” [L.]. Juvenal, 
Satires (4.35-36).] 

a We have placed the “Invocation to the Muses” at the beginning of Book 20, as 
Montesquieu originally intended. 


Part 4 


On commerce 

The following material would require more extensive treatment, but 
the nature of this work does not permit it. I should like to glide on a 
tranquil river; I am dragged along by a torrent. 

Commerce cures destructive prejudices, and it is an almost general 
rule that everywhere there are gende mores/ there is commerce and 
that everywhere there is commerce, there are gende mores. 

Therefore, one should not be surprised if our mores are less fierce 
than they were formerly. Commerce has spread knowledge of the 
mores of all nations everywhere; they have been compared to each 
other, and good things have resulted from this. 

One can say that the laws of commerce perfect mores for the same 
reason that these same laws ruin mores. Commerce corrupts pure 
mores , 2 and this was the subject of Plato’s complaints; it polishes and 
softens barbarous mores, as we see every day. 

2 Caesar says of the Gauls that the proximity and commerce of Marseilles had spoiled them 
so that they, who had formerly always vanquished the Germans, had become inferior to 
them. [Gaius Julius Caesarj De hello Gallico , bk. 6 [6.24]. 

* Although doux can be translated as “soft,” “gentle,” with its less pejorative and more 
descriptive tone, is most appropriate to Montesquieu’s meaning. 


On the spirit of commerce 

The natural effect of commerce is to lead to peace. Two nations that 
trade with each other become reciprocally dependent; if one has an 
interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling, and all unions are 
founded on mutual needs. 

But, if the spirit of commerce unites nations, it does not unite 
individuals in the same way. We see that in countries 3 where one is 
affected only by the spirit of commerce, there is traffic in all human 

3 Holland. 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

activities and all moral virtues; the smallest things, those required by 
humanity, are done or given for money. 

The spirit of commerce produces in men a certain feeling for exact 
justice, opposed on the one hand to banditry and on the other to those 
moral virtues that make it so that one does not always discuss one’s own 
interests alone and that one can neglect them for those of others. 

By contrast, total absence of commerce produces the banditry that 
Aristotle puts among the ways of acquiring. Its spirit is not contrary to 
certain moral virtues; for example, hospitality, so rare among com- 
mercial countries, is notable among bandit peoples. 

It is a sacrilege among the Germans, says Tacitus, to close one’s 
house to any man whether known or unknown. Anyone who has offered 
hospitality to a stranger will point him to another house where there is 
similar hospitality , 4 and he will be received there with the same 
humanity. But, after the Germans had founded kingdoms, hospitality 
became burdensome to them. This is shown by two laws in the code of 
the Burgundians : 5 the one imposes a penalty on any barbarian who 
would point a stranger to the house of a Roman and the other rules that 
anyone who receives a stranger will be compensated by the inhabitants, 
each according to his share. 

4 “The one who was just now the host directs the guest to another host” [L.J. [Tacitus] 
Germania [21]. See also [Gaius Julius] Caesar, De hello Gallico, bk. 6 [6.23.9]. 
s [Leges Burgundionum] tit. 38 [38.7]. 


On the poverty of peoples 

There are two sorts of poor peoples: some are made so by the harshness 
of the government, and these people are capable of almost no virtue 
because their poverty is a part of their servitude; the others are poor 
only because they have disdained or because they did not know the 
comforts of life, and these last can do great things because this poverty 
is a part of their liberty. 


Part 4 


On commerce in the various governments 

Commerce is related to the constitution. In government by one alone, it 
is ordinarily founded on luxury, and though it is also founded on real 
needs, its principal object is to procure for the nation engaging in it all 
that serves its arrogance, its delights, and its fancies. In government by 
many, it is more often founded on economy. Traders, eyeing all the 
nations of the earth, take to one what they bring from another. This is 
how the republics of Tyre, Carthage, Marseilles, Florence, Venice, and 
Holland engaged in commerce. 

This kind of traffic concerns the government of many by its nature 
and monarchical government on occasion. For, as it is founded only on 
the practice of gaining little and even of gaining less than any other 
nation and of being compensated only by gaining continually, it is 
scarcely possible for it to be done by a people among whom luxury is 
established who spend much and who see only great objects. 

In keeping with these ideas, Cicero said so well : 6 “I do not like a 
people to be both the rulers and the clerks of the universe.” Indeed, one 
would have to assume that each individual in this state and even the 
whole state always had a head full of both great projects and small ones, 
which is contradictory. 

Yet the greatest enterprises are also undertaken in those states which 
subsist by economic commerce, and they show a daring not to be found 
in monarchies: here is the reason for it. 

One commerce leads to another, the small to the middling, the 
middling to the great, and he who earlier desired to gain little arrives at 
a position where he has no less of a desire to gain a great deal. 

Moreover, the great enterprises of the traders are always necessarily 
mixed with public business. But, public business is for the most part as 
suspect to the merchants in monarchies as it appears safe to them in 
republican states. Therefore, great commercial enterprises are not for 
monarchies, but for the government by many. 

In short, one’s belief that one’s prosperity is more certain in these 
states makes one undertake everything, and because one believes that 
what one has acquired is secure, one dares to expose it in order to 

6 “I do not wish the same people to be both the ruler and customs officer for the world” [L.] 
[Cicero, De republica 4.7). 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

acquire more; only the means for acquisition are at risk; now, men 
expect much of their fortune. 

I do not mean that any monarchies are totally excluded from 
economic commerce, but they are less inclined to it by its nature; 1 do 
not mean that the republics we know are entirely without the commerce 
of luxury, but it is less related to their constitution. 

As for the despotic state, it is useless to talk about it. General rule: in 
a nation that is in servitude, one works more to preserve than to 
acquire; in a free nation, one works more to acquire than to preserve. 


On peoples who have engaged in economic commerce 

Marseilles, a necessary retreat in the midst of a stormy sea, Marseilles, 
where all the winds, the shoals, and the coastline order ships to put in, 
was frequented by sea-faring people. The barrenness 7 of its territory 
made its citizens decide on economic commerce. They had to be 
hardworking in order to replace that which nature refused them; just, 
in order to live among the barbarian nations that were to make their 
prosperity; moderate, in order for their government always to be 
tranquil; finally, of frugal mores, in order to live always by a commerce 
that they would the more surely preserve the less it was advantageous to 

It has been seen everywhere that violence and harassment have 
brought forth economic commerce among men who are constrained to 
hide in marshes, on islands, on the shoals, and even among dangerous 
reefs. Thus were Tyre, Venice, and the Dutch towns founded; fugitives 
found security there. They had to live; they drew their livelihood from 
the whole universe. 

7 Justin [Epitoma historianim Philippicarum], bk. 43, chap. 3 (43-3-5 i- 


Part 4 

chapter 6 

Some effects of a great navigation 

It sometimes happens that a nation that engages in economic com- 
merce, needing the commodities of one country to serve as a basis for 
procuring the commodities of another, is satisfied to gain very little and 
sometimes nothing on the former, in the expectation or the certainty of 
gaining much on the latter. Thus, when Holland almost alone traded 
from the south of Europe to the north, the French wines, which it 
carried to the north, in a way served it only as a base for its commerce in 
the north. 

It is known that in Holland certain kinds of commodities imported 
from a distance often sell for no more than they cost where they come 
from. Here is the reason given: a captain who needs ballast in his ship 
will take on marble; he needs wood for packing his cargo, he will buy it; 
and provided he loses nothing on it, he will believe he has done well. 
Thus, Holland also has its quarries and its forests. 

Not only can a commerce that produces nothing be useful, but so can 
even a disadvantageous commerce. I have heard that in Holland whale- 
hunting generally speaking almost never returns what it costs; but those 
who have been employed in building the ship, those who have provided 
the rigging, the gear, and the provisions, are also those who take the 
principal interest in the hunt. Even if they lose on the hunt, they have 
come out ahead on the equipage. This commerce is a kind of lottery, 
and each one is seduced by the hope of a lucky number. Everyone loves 
to play, and the most sober* people willingly enter the play when it does 
not have the appearance of gambling, with all its irregularities, its 
violence, its dissipation, the loss of time, and even of life. 

c les plus sages. (See note *, bk. i and note b , bk. 5.) 


The spirit of England concerning commerce 

Almost none of England’s tariffs with other nations are regular; tariffs 
change, so to speak, with each parliament, as it lifts or imposes 
particular duties. England has also wanted to preserve its 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

independence in this matter. Sovereignly jealous of the commerce that 
is done there, it binds itself with few treaties and depends only on its 

Other nations have made commercial interests give way to political 
interests: England has always made its political interests give way to the 
interests of its commerce. 

This is the people in the world who have best known how to take 
advantage of each of these three great things at the same time: religion, 
commerce, and liberty. 


How economic commerce has sometimes been hampered 

In certain monarchies, laws have been made which serve to lower the 
states that engage in economic commerce. They have been forbidden 
to supply commodities other than those produced in their country; they 
have been permitted to trade only with ships built in their own country. 

The state imposing these laws must be able to engage in the 
commerce easily itself; otherwise, it would do itself at least an equal 
wrong. It is better to deal with a nation that requires little and that the 
needs of commerce render somewhat dependent; with a nation that 
knows where to place all superfluous commodities due to the breadth 
of its views or its business; that is rich and can itself take many products; 
that will pay promptly for them; that has, so to speak, necessities for 
being faithful; that is peaceful on principle; that seeks to gain, and not 
to conquer: it is better, I say, to deal with this nation than with others 
that are ever rivals and would not offer all these advantages. 


On exclusion in commerce 

The true maxim is to exclude no nation from one’s commerce without 
great reasons. The Japanese trade with only two nations, the Chinese 
and the Dutch. The Chinese 8 earn a thousand percent on sugar and 

8 Father [Jean Baptiste] du Halde [Description de VEmpire de la Chine], vol. 2, pp, 1 70 [“Du 
commerce du Chinois,” 2, 205-206 H; 2, 170 P; 2, 297 L.]. 


Part 4 

sometimes as much on return commodities. The Dutch make about 
the same profit. Any nation that is guided by the maxims of the Japanese 
will necessarily be deceived. It is competition that puts a just price on 
goods and establishes the true relations between them. 

Still less should a state subject itself to selling its commodity to but a 
single nation on the pretext that it will take all of it at a certain price. For 
their grain, the Poles made this bargain with the town of Danzig; many 
kings of the Indies have similar contracts with the Dutch for spices . 9 
These agreements are appropriate only for a poor nation, which 
willingly abandons the expectation of becoming rich, provided it has 
secured its sustenance, or for nations whose servitude consists in 
renouncing the use of the things nature has given them or in using 
these things to engage in a disadvantageous commerce. 

9 This was first established by the Portuguese. Francois Pyrard, Voyages , pt. 2, chap. 1 5 [vol. 
2, pt. 1, chap. 15; 2, 204-205; 1887-1890 edn]. 


Establishment proper to economic commerce 

In states that engage in economic commerce, one has fortunately 
established banks, which, by means of their credit, have formed new 
signs of values. But it would be wrong to introduce them into states that 
carry’ on a commerce of luxuiy. To put them into countries governed by 
one alone is to assume silver on one side and power on the other: that is, 
on the one side, the faculty of having everything without any power, 
and, on the other, power with the faculty of having nothing at all. In 
such a government, there has never been anyone but the prince who 
has obtained or has been able to obtain a treasury, and wherever there is 
a treasury, as soon as it is excessive, it immediately becomes the 

For the same reason, trading companies that associate for the sake of 
a certain commerce are rarely suited to the government by one alone. 
The nature of these companies is to give to individual wealth the force 
of public wealth. But in these states this force can be found only in the 
hands of the prince. I would go further: trading companies do not 
always suit states where there is economic commerce; and, if the 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

business is not so large as to be beyond the reach of individuals, it is 
better not to hamper the liberty of commerce by exclusive privileges. 


Continuation of the same subject 

In states that engage in economic commerce, one can establish a frec d 
port. The economy of the state, which always follows the frugality of 
individuals, gives its economic commerce a soul, so to speak. What it 
loses in taxes by the establishment considered here is offset by what it 
can draw from the republic in wealth made by industriousness. But in 
monarchical government such establishments would be contrary to 
reason; their only effect would be to relieve luxury of the weight of 
imposts. It would deprive itself of the sole good this luxuiy can procure 
and of the only bridle that, in such a constitution, it can have. 

d franc. 


On the liberty of commerce 

Liberty of commerce is not a faculty granted to traders to do what they 
want; this would instead be the servitude of commerce. That which 
hampers those who engage in commerce does not, for all that, hamper 
commerce. It is in countries of liberty that the trader finds innumerable 
obstacles; the laws never thwart him less than in countries of servitude. 

England prohibits the export of its wool; it wants coal brought to the 
capital by sea; it does not permit the export of horses unless they are 
gelded; the ships 10 from its colonies that trade in Europe are to anchor 
in England. It hampers the trader, but it does so in favor of commerce. 

10 Navigation Act of 1660 [The Statutes of the Realm, 12 Car., vol. 2, chap. 18; 5, 246-250; 
1963 edn; consider the Act of Interregnum, October 9, 1651]. It was only in wartime that 
those [merchants] of Boston and Philadelphia sent the vessels carrying their goods directly 
to the Mediterranean. 


Part 4 


What destroys that liberty 

Where there is commerce there are customs houses. The object of 
commerce is to export and import commodities in favor of the state, 
and the object of the customs houses is a certain duty on that same 
exporting, also in favor of the state. Therefore, the state must be 
neutral between its customs houses and its commerce and must 
arrange that these two things never thwart one another; then one enjoys 
the liberty of commerce there. 

The fanning of the customs^ destroys commerce by its injustices and 
harassments and by the excess of what it imposes, but independently of 
that it also destroys it further by the difficulties to which it gives rise and 
the formalities it requires. In England, where customs are imposed 
directly/ there is a singular ease in trade: a word in writing accom- 
plishes the greatest business; the merchant does not have to waste an 
infinite time and have specified agents in order to conclude all the 
difficulties brought up by the tax-farmers or to submit to them. 


* la finance here means the work of the financiers , tax-farmers, in regard to customs. See 

note*, bk. 3. 

s regie. See 13.19 (note/ bk. 13). 


On the lam of commerce that entail the confiscation of 

The Magna Carta of England forbids in the event of war the seizure 
and confiscation of the commodities of foreign traders, except as a 
reprisal. It is a fine thing for the English nation to have made this one of 
the articles of its liberty. 

In the war Spain waged against the English in 1 740, a law was made ' ' 
that punished with death those who introduced English commodities 

1 1 Published at Cadiz in March 1 740, [Seejean Rousset de Missy, Les Proces entre I'Espagne et 
Grartde-Breiagne, vol. 13, Supplement of the Recueil historique , Declaration of War, 
November 28, 1739; p. 252; 1756 edn.] 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

into the Spanish states;* it imposed this same penalty on those who 
carried Spanish commodities to the English states. Such an ordinance 
can find, I believe, no other model than the laws of Japan. It runs 
counter to our mores, to the spirit of commerce, and to the harmony 
that should prevail in proportioning penalties; it confuses all ideas, 
making a state crime of what is only a violation of the police. 

*Here etats, “states,” are what we today would call the Spanish colonies. 


On corporal constraint 

Solon 12 ordered that there would no longer be corporal obligations for 
civil debts in Athens. He drew this law from Egypt ; 13 Bocchoris had 
made it, and Sesostris had revived it. 

This law is good for ordinary civil business , 14 but we are right not to 
observe it in commercial business. For as traders are obliged to entrust 
great sums for often quite short periods of time, to give them and take 
them back again, the debtor must fulfill his engagements at the 
appointed time; this assumes corporal constraint. 

In business deriving from ordinary civil contracts, the law should not 
provide for corporal constraint because it makes more of the liberty of 
one citizen than of the convenience of another. But, in agreements that 
derive from commerce, the law should make more of public con- 
venience than of the liberty of a citizen; this does not prevent the 
restrictions and limitations that humanity and a good police can 

,2 Plutarch [Moralia], Devitando acre alieno [828f|. 

13 Diodorus Siculus [Bibliotheca historical bk. 1, pt. 2, chap. 3 [1.79]. 

H Those Greek legislators were blameworthy who had forbidden taking a man’s weapons 
and cart as securities but had permitted taking the man himself. Diodorus Siculus 
[Bibliotheca historica), bk. 1, pt. 2, chap. 3 [1.79.5J. 


Part 4 

chapter 16 

A fine law 

The law of Geneva that excludes from magistracies and even from 
entry to the Great Council the children of those who have lived or who 
have died insolvent, unless the children discharge their father’s debts, 
is a very good one. It has the effect of building up trust in traders, in 
magistrates, and in the city itself. Here again, confidence in an 
individual has the force of public confidence. 


A law of Rhodes 

The Rhodians went further. Sextus Empiricus 15 says that there a son 
could not be excused from paying his father’s debts by renouncing his 
inheritance. This law of Rhodes was given to a republic founded on 
commerce: now, I believe that reasons drawn from commerce itself 
should have set this limitation, that the debts contracted by the father 
after his son had begun to carry on the commerce would not affect the 
goods acquired by the son. A merchant should always know his 
obligations and conduct himself at every moment in accordance with 
the state of his fortune. 

15 [Sextus Empiricus, Pyrrhoeia ] Hippotiposes, bk. 1, chap. 14 [1.149], 


On judges for commerce 

Xenophon, in his book, Ways and Means ,' wanted one to reward those 
prefects of commerce who dispatched proceedings most quickly. He 
felt the need for our commercial jurisdiction. 7 
Commercial business is only slightly susceptible to formalities. The 

Xenophon, Ways andMeans 3.3. i jurisdiction consulaire. 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

actions of one day have to be followed the next day by others of the same 
nature. Therefore, they must be decided every day. It is otherwise in 
the actions of life that have much influence on the future, but which 
happen rarely. One usually marries only once; one does not make 
bequests or testaments every day; one comes of age only once. 

Plato 16 says that, in a town where there is no maritime commerce, 
half the number of civil laws are needed, and this is very true. 
Commerce brings into a country different sorts of peoples, a great 
number of agreements, kinds of goods, and ways of acquisition. 

Thus, in a commercial town there are fewer judges and more laws. 

16 [Plato] Laws, bk. 8 [842c-dJ. 


That the prince should not engage in commerce 

Theophilus , 17 on seeing a ship which carried commodities for his wife 
Theodora, had it burned. “I am the emperor,” he told her, “and you 
make me a shipmaster. How can the poor people earn a living if we too 
ply their trade?” He could have added: who will restrain us if we make 
monopolies? Who will require us to fulfill our engagements? The 
courtiers will want to do our commerce; they will be more avid and 
more unjust than we. The people have trust in our justice; they have 
none in our opulence; the many imposts that make their misery* are 
certain proofs of our own. 

I7 [Johannes] Zonaras [Epitome hhtoriarum 25.25.41-42]. 

*Here misere means both “misery” and “poverty”. 


Continuation of the same subject 

When the Portuguese and Castilians dominated the East Indies, 
commerce had such rich branches that their princes did not fail to seize 
them. This ruined their establishments in those parts. 


Part 4 

The viceroy of Goa granted exclusive privileges to individuals. One 
has no trust in such people; commerce is interrupted by the perpetual 
change of those to whom it is entrusted; no one manages this 
commerce or is concerned that one leaves only ruins to one’s heir; the 
profit stays in the hands of individuals and is not spread out enough. 


On commerce by the nobility in a monarchy 

It is against the spirit of commerce for the nobility to engage in it in a 
monarchy. “That would be pernicious for the towns,” say the emperors 
Honorius and Theodosius , 18 “and would take away the ease with which 
merchants and plebeians buy and sell.” 

It is against the spirit of monarchy for the nobility to engage in 
commerce. The usage that permitted commerce to the nobility in 
England is one of the things that most contributed to weakening 
monarchical government there. 

18 Law “Nobiliores,” Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 4.63.3] decommerciis etmercatoribus, and 
the last law of de rescindenda venditione [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 4.44}. 


A particular reflection 

People who are struck by what is practiced in some states think there 
should be laws in France engaging the nobles to carry on commerce. 
This would be the way to destroy the nobility, without being of any 
utility to commerce. The practice of this country is very wise; traders 
are not nobles, but they may become nobles. They can have the 
expectation of becoming noble without the drawback of being nobles. 
They have no surer way of quitting their profession than to do it well or 
to do it successfully: something usually linked to prosperity. 

The laws ordering each man to stay in his profession and to pass it 
down to his children are and can be useful only in despotic states , 19 
where none can or should be rivals. 

19 Indeed, they are often established that way. 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

Let it not be said that each man will follow his profession better when 
he cannot leave it for another. I say that a profession will be better 
pursued when those who have excelled in it can expect to attain 

When nobility can be acquired with silver, it greatly encourages 
traders to put themselves in a position to attain it. I am not examining 
whether it is good thus to give the prize of virtue to wealth; there are 
governments in which this can be quite useful. 

In France, that estate of the robe lying between the great nobility and 
the people, which, without having the brilliance of the former, has all its 
privileges; that estate which leaves individuals at mid-level while the 
body, the depository of the laws, is glorified; that estate in which one 
has no way to distinguish oneself but by prosperity and virtue; an 
honorable profession, but one which always lets a more distinguished 
one be seen: that altogether warlike nobility, who think that, whatever 
degree of wealth one has, one’s fortune is yet to be made but that it is 
shameful to increase one’s goods if one does not begin by dissipating 
them; that part of the nation who always serve with their capital goods; 
who, when they are ruined, give their place to others who will serve with 
their capital again; who go to war so that no one will dare to say they did 
not go; who expect honors when they cannot expect wealth, and when 
they do not get wealth, console themselves because they have acquired 
honor: all these things have necessarily contributed to the greatness of 
the kingdom. And if, over the past two or three centuries, the kingdom 
has endlessly increased its power, this must be attributed to the 
goodness of its laws and not to fortune, which does not have this sort of 

‘ces sortes de constant x. See note *, bk, i. 


Those nations for whom it is disadvantageous to engage in 

Wealth consists in land or in movable effects; the land of each country 
is usually possessed by its inhabitants. Most states have laws that 
discourage foreigners from acquiring their lands; only the presence of 


Part 4 

the master can increase their value; therefore, this kind of wealth 
belongs to each state particularly. But movable effects, such as silver, 
notes, letters of exchange, shares in companies, ships, and all com- 
modities, belong to the whole world, which, in this regard comprises 
but a single state of which all societies are members; the people that 
possess the most of such movable effects in the universe are the richest. 
Some states have an immense number of them; they acquire them by 
their produce, by the labor of their workers, by their industry, by their 
discoveries, even by chance. The avarice of nations disputes the 
movables of the whole universe. There may be a state so unhappy that it 
will be deprived of the movable effects of other countries and also even 
of almost all its own; the owners of its land will be but the colonists of 
foreigners. This state will lack everything and will be able to acquire 
nothing; it would be far better for it to have commerce with no nation in 
the world; in these circumstances commerce has led to poverty. 

A country which always sends out fewer commodities or less 
produce than it receives puts itself in equilibrium by impoverishing 
itself; it will receive ever less, until, in extreme poverty, it receives 

In commercial countries, silver that has suddenly vanished comes 
back because the states that received it owe it; in the states of which we 
speak, silver never comes back because those who have taken it owe 

Poland will serve here as our example. It has almost none of the 
things we call the movable effects of the universe except the grain of its 
fields. A few lords possess whole provinces; they oppress the plowman 
in order to have a greater quantity of grain to send to foreigners and 
procure for themselves the things their luxury demands. If Poland had 
commerce with no nation, its people would be happier. Its important 
men, who would have only their grain, would give it to their peasants for 
them to live on; excessively large domains would be burdensome to 
them, they would divide them among their peasants; as everyone would 
have skins or wools from his herds, there would no longer be an 
immense expense in making clothing; the important men, who always 
love luxury and who would be able to find it only in their own country, 
would encourage the poor in their work. I say that this nation would 
flourish more, unless it became barbarous; something that the laws 
could prevent. 

Now let us consider Japan. The excessive quantity of what it can 


Commerce: its nature and distinctions 

accept produces the excess of what it can send out: things will be in 
equilibrium as if imports and exports were moderate, and besides, this 
kind of inflation" will produce a thousand advantages for the state; 
there will be more consumption, more things on which the arts can be 
exercised, more men employed, more means of acquiring power. In 
cases in which one needs prompt aid, a state that is so filled can give it 
more quickly than another. It is hard when a country does not have 
superfluous things, but it is the nature of commerce to make super- 
fluous things useful and useful ones necessary. Therefore, the state will 
be able to give the necessary things to a greater number of its subjects. 

Let us say, therefore, that it is not the nations who need nothing that 
lose by carrying on commerce; it is those who need everything. It is not 
the peoples who have enough among themselves but those who have 
nothing at home who find it advantageous to trade with no one. 

m enflure, “inflation,” means blown up like a balloon. 



BOOK 21 

On laws in their relation to commerce, 
considered in the revolutions it has had 
in the world 


Some general considerations 

Though commerce is subject to great revolutions, it can happen that 
certain physical causes such as the quality of the terrain or of the 
climate fix its nature forever. 

Today we engage in commerce with the Indies only through the 
silver we send there. The Romans 1 took about fifty million sesterces 
there every year. Just as with our silver today, this silver was converted 
into commodities that they brought back to the West. All peoples who 
have traded with the Indies have always taken metals there and brought 
back commodities. 

Nature herself produces this effect. The Indians have their arts, 
which are adapted to their manner of living. Our luxury cannot be 
theirs, nor our needs their needs. Their climate requires and permits 
them to have almost nothing that comes from us. They generally go 
naked; the land has furnished them suitably with the clothes they have; 
and their religion, which has such empire over them, makes repugnant 
to them the things that serve as food for us. Therefore, they need only 
our metals, which are the signs of value and for which they give the 
commodities that their frugality and the nature of their land procure for 
them in great abundance. The ancient authors who mentioned the 
Indies depict them 2 as we see them today in respect to police, manners, 
and mores. The Indies have been, the Indies will be, what they are at 

'Pliny the Elder [Naturalts historia), bk. 6, chap. 23 [6. 26.101). 

2 See Pliny the Elder [Naturalts kistoria\,b\i. 6, chap. 19 [6.22.66]; and Strabo [ Geographica ], 
bk. 15 [15.1.39-73I. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

present, and in all times those who deal with the Indies will take silver 
there and bring back none. 


On the peoples of Africa 

Most of the peoples on the coasts of Africa are savages or barbarians. I 
believe that this comes largely from there being some uninhabitable 
countries that separate those small countries which can be inhabited. 
They are without industry; they have no arts; they have precious metals 
in abundance which they take immediately from the hand of nature. 
Therefore, all peoples with a police are in a position to trade advanta- 
geously with them; they can make them have a high regard for things of 
no value and receive a very high price for them. 


That the needs of the peoples of the South are different from 
those of the peoples of the North 

There is a kind of balance in Europe between the nations of the South 
and those of the North. The first have all sorts of the comforts of life 
and few needs; the second have many needs and few of the comforts of 
life. To the former, nature had given much, and they ask but little of it; 
to the others nature gives little, and they ask much of it. Equilibrium is 
maintained by the laziness it has given to the southern nations and by 
the industry and activity it has given to those of the north. The latter are 
obliged to work much; if they did not, they would lack everything and 
become barbarians. What has naturalized servitude among the 
southern peoples is that, as they can easily do without wealth, they can 
do even better without liberty. But the northern peoples need liberty, 
which procures for them more of the means of satisfying all the needs 
nature has given them. The northern peoples are, therefore, in a forced 
state unless they are either free or barbarians; almost all the southern 
peoples are, in some fashion, in a violent state unless they are slaves. 



The principal difference between the commerce of the 
ancients and that of today 

From time to time the world meets with situations that change 
commerce. Today the commerce of Europe is principally carried on 
from north to south. However, the difference in climates makes people 
have a great need for each other’s commodities. For example, the 
beverages of the South carried to the North form a kind of commerce 
scarcely pursued by the ancients. Thus the capacity of ships formerly 
measured by hogsheads of grain is measured today by casks of liquor. 

As the ancient commerce that is known to us was from one 
Mediterranean port to another, it was almost entirely in the South. But, 
as peoples of the same climate have almost the same things, they do not 
need commerce with one another as much as do peoples of differing 
climates. Therefore, commerce in Europe was less extensive formerly 
than it is at present. 

This is not in contradiction with what I have said about our 
commerce in the Indies; the difference in climates is so extreme that 
there is no relation between their needs and ours. 


Other differences 

Commerce, sometimes destroyed by conquerors, sometimes 
hampered by monarchs, wanders across the earth, flees from where it is 
oppressed, and remains where it is left to breathe: it reigns today where 
one used to see only deserted places, seas, and rocks; there where it 
used to reign are now only deserted places. 

Today upon seeing Colchis, which is no more than a vast forest 
where the people, who are fewer every day, defend their liberty only in 
order to sell themselves one by one to the Turks and Persians, one 
would never say that this region had been at the time of the Romans full 
of towns whose commerce called all the nations of the world to it. No 

Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

record of this is to be found in the country; there are traces of it only in 
Pliny 3 and Strabo . 4 

The history of commerce is that of communication among peoples. 
Its greatest events are formed by their various destructions and certain 
ebbs and flows of population and of devastations. 

3 [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia ] bk. 6 [6.4.1 1-5.18]. 

4 [Strabo, Geographical bk. 2 [11.2.18]. 


On the commerce of the ancients 

The immense treasures of Semiramis , 5 which could not have been 
acquired in a day, make us think that the Assyrians themselves had 
pillaged other wealthy nations, as other nations later pillaged them. 

The effect of commerce is wealth; the consequence of wealth, 
luxury; that of luxury, the perfection of the arts. The arts, carried to the 
point at which they were found in the time of Semiramis , 6 indicate to us 
that a great commerce was already established. 

There was a great commerce of luxury in the empires of Asia. The 
history of luxury would be a fine part of the history of commerce; the 
luxury of the Persians was that of the Medes, as that of the Medes was 
that of the Assyrians. 

Great changes have occurred in Asia. The northeastern parts of 
Persia, Hyrcania, Margiana, Bactria, etc., were formerly full of 
flourishing towns 7 which exist no more, and the north of this empire , 8 
that is the isthmus separating the Caspian Sea from the Black Sea, was 
covered with towns and nations which are no more. 

Eratosthenes 9 and Aristobulus found in Patrocles 10 that the com- 






Diodorus Siculus [Bibliotheca historical, bk. 2 [2.7-12]. 

Ibid. [Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica 2.7-9]. 

Sec Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 16 [6.17.46-49]; and Strabo 
[Geographical, bk. 11 [11.1.1- 11.8.1]. 

Ibid. [Strabo, Geographica 11.8.2.] 

Ibid. [Strabo, Geographica 1 1.7.3.] 

As appears in Strabo’s account Patrocles’ authority is considerable. [ Geographica ], bk. 2 
[J *-7 3l- 


Part 4 

modities of the Indies went down the Oxus into the Black Sea. a Marcus 
Varro 11 tells us that at the time of Pompey during the war against 
Mithridates it was learned that it took seven days to go from the Indies 
to Bactria and thus to the river Icarus, which flows into the Oxus; that in 
this way the commodities of the Indies could cross the Caspian Sea to 
enter the mouth of the Cyrus; that from this river there was only a five- 
day journey overland to the Phasis, which flowed into the Black Sea. 
No doubt the great empires of the Assyrians, the Medes, and the 
Persians communicated with the most remote parts of the East and the 
West by way of the nations that populated these various countries. 

This communication no longer exists. All these countries have been 
laid waste by the Tartars , 12 and this destructive nation still lives there 
and infects them. The Oxus no longer runs to the Caspian Sea; the 
Tartars have diverted it for particular reasons ; 13 it disappears into arid 

The Jaxartes, which once formed a barrier between the nations with 
a police and the barbarian nations, has been similarly diverted 14 by 
Tartars and no longer flows to the sea. 

Seleucus Nicator formed the project 15 of joining the Black Sea to the 
Caspian Sea. This design, which would have made the commerce of 
that time very easy, vanished with his death . 16 One does not know 
whether he could have carried it out in the isthmus that separates the 
two seas. This country is very little known today; it is depopulated and 
filled with forests. Water is not lacking there, for an infinity of rivers 
descends from the Caucasus mountains, but the Caucasus, which 
forms the north of the isthmus and whose arms 17 reach to the south, 

1} In Pliny the Elder [Naturalis fitstoria], bk. 6, chap. 17 [6.19.51-52}. See also Strabo 
[Geographical, bk. 1 1 [1 1.2.17], for the route of merchandise from Phasis to Cyrus. 

12 Many changes must have occurred in this country since the time of Ptolemy, who 
describes so many rivers flowing into the eastern part of the Caspian Sea. The map of the 
Czar shows only the river of Astrabat in that part, and Bathalsi’s shows nothing. [The 
“Map of the Czar” was a map of the Caspian region made by J. G. Homann under the 
direction of Karl van Verden and was published in Leipzig in the early eighteenth century 
(1720). Bathalsi is Basil Battazi or Vatace, a Greek cartographer who prepared a map of 
central Asia (ca. 1732).} 

,3 See Jenkinson’s account in the Recueil de voyages au ttord, vol. 4 [Voyage d’Antoine 
Jenkinson; 4, 487; 1732 edn]. 

14 1 believe Lake Aral was formed from this. 

,5 Claudius Caesar, in Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia ], bk. 6, chap. 2 [6.12.31], 

,6 He was killed by Ptolemy Keraunos. 17 See Strabo [ Geographica J, bk. 1 1 [1 1 .14.4]. 

“The Hircanian Sea (the Caspian Sea), according to Strabo. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

would have been a great obstacle, especially in those times when the art 
of making locks did not yet exist. 

One might believe that Seleucus wanted to join the two seas at the 
very place where Czar Peter I has since done it, that is, on that spit of 
land where the Tanais is close to the Volga, but the north of the 
Caspian Sea had not yet been discovered. 

While there was a commerce of luxury among the empires of Asia, 
the Tyrians engaged in an economic commerce around the whole 
world. Bochart has used the first book of his Canaan b to enumerate the 
colonies they sent to all the countries along the sea coast; they went 
beyond the Pillars of Hercules and set up establishments 18 on the 
coasts of the ocean. 

In those times, navigators were obliged to follow the coast, which was 
their compass, so to speak. Their voyages were long and arduous. The 
laborious voyage of Ulysses was a fertile subject for the finest poem in 
the world, after the one which is the first of all. 

The little knowledge most people had about those who were far away 
from them favored the nations that engaged in economic commerce. 
They put what obscurities they wanted into their trading; they had all 
the advantages of intelligent nations over ignorant peoples. 

Egypt, removed by its religion and mores from any communication 
with foreigners, did scarcely any commerce abroad; it enjoyed a fertile 
terrain and extreme abundance. It was the Japan of those times; it was 
sufficient to itself. 

The Egyptians were so little jealous of external commerce that they 
left that of the Red Sea to all the small nations that had ports there. 
They permitted the Idumaeans, the Jews, and the Syrians to have fleets 
there. For this navigation Solomon 19 employed the Tyrians, who knew 
these seas. 

Josephus 20 says that his nation, occupied exclusively with agri- 
culture, knew the sea but little; thus the Jews traded on the Red Sea 
only occasionally. They conquered the Idumaean towns of Elath and 
Ezion-geber, which gave them this commerce; they lost these two 
towns and this commerce as well. 

18 They founded Tartessos and setded at Cadiz. 

I9 I Kings, chap. 9 [I Kings 9.26]; II Chronicles, chap. 8 [2.8.17]. 

20 [Josephus] Contra Appian [1.12.60-68]. 

* Samuel Bochart, Geographta sacra sett Phaleg et Canaan (1 692). 



It was not the same for the Phoenicians; they did not engage in a 
commerce of luxury; they did not trade as a result of conquest; their 
frugality, their ability, their industry, their perils, and their hardships 
made them necessary to all the nations in the world. 

The nations neighboring on the Red Sea traded only on this sea and 
on that of Africa. The universal astonishment at Alexander’s discovery 
of the Indian Ocean is sufficient proof of this. We have said 21 that 
precious metals are still carried to the Indies and that none are brought 
back ; 22 the Jewish fleets which brought back gold and silver through the 
Red Sea were returning from Africa and not from the Indies. 

I say further: this voyage was made along the eastern coast of Africa, 
and the state of sailing at that time is sufficient proof that one did not go 
to very distant places. 

I know that the fleets of Solomon and of Jehoshaphat returned only 
in the third year, but I do not see that the length of the voyage proves the 
greatness of the distance. 

Pliny and Strabo tell us that the route traversed in twenty days by a 
ship made of rushes in the Indies or the Red Sea could be covered in 
seven days by a Greek or Roman ship . 23 Using this proportion, a voyage 
of about one year for the Greek or Roman fleet was a voyage of about 
three years for Solomon’s fleets. 

Two ships of unequal speeds do not make their voyages in times 
proportional to their speeds; slowness often produces an even greater 
slowness. When it is a question of following the coasts and when one is 
constantly in a different situation, when one must wait for a good wind 
in order to leave a gulf and have another in order to set out, a ship that is 
a good sailor profits from all the favorable weather, while the other one 
remains in a difficult spot and waits several days for another change. 

This slowness of the Indians ships, which, in an equal time, could go 
but a third of the distance covered by the Greek and Roman ships, can 
be explained by what we see today in our sailing. The Indian ships 
made of rushes drew less water than the Greek and Roman vessels 
made of wood jot ne dwith iron. 

One can compare the Indian ships to those of some nations today 

21 In chapter i of this book [that is, 2 1 . i , abovej. 

22 The proportion established in Europe between gold and silver can sometimes permit one 
to profit by taking gold from the Indies for silver; but it amounts to little. 

23 See Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 6, ch. 22 [6.24.82]; and Strabo \Geographka], 
bk. 15 [15.1.14-15], 

Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

whose ports are not very deep, such as those of Venice and even Italy 
generally , 24 the Baltic Sea, and the province of Holland . 25 Their ships, 
which have to go in and out of these ports, are built with round, broad 
bottoms, whereas the ships of nations that have good ports have hulls 
formed to lie deep in the water. This mechanism makes the latter ships 
sail closer to the wind and the former sail almost only when they have 
the wind to the stem. A ship that lies deeper in the water sails in the 
same direction in almost any wind; this comes from the resistance that 
the boat, pushed by the wind, finds in the water, which gives it a point of 
support, and from the long form of the vessel, which presents its side to 
the wind while, because of the shape of the rudder, one turns the prow 
in the direction one proposes; in this way one can go very close to the 
wind, that is, nearly in the direction from which the wind comes. But 
when the ship is round and broad -bottomed and consequently does not 
sink deep into the water, there is no point of support; the wind pushes 
the vessel, which can neither resist nor go scarcely anywhere but where 
the wind blows. From this it follows that vessels constructed with a 
round bottom are slower in their voyages: (i) they lose much time 
waiting for the wind, especially if they are often obliged to change 
directions; (2) they go more slowly because, not having a point of 
support, they cannot carry as many sails as the others. For if, at a time 
when sailing has much improved, at a time when the arts are communi- 
cated, at a time when one corrects with art both the defect of nature and 
the defects of art itself, one feels these differences, what must it have 
been for the sailing of the ancients? 

I cannot leave this subject. The Indian ships were small, and those of 
the Greeks and Romans, if one excepts those machines made for 
ostentation, were smaller than ours. The smaller the ship, the more it is 
endangered by bad weather. A tempest that can sink a ship would only 
make it roll if it were larger. The relation between a large body and its 
surface is smaller than that of a small body and its surface; from which it 
follows that a small ship has a smaller ratio, that is, a greater difference 
between the surface of the ship and the weight or load it can carry than a 
large one has. One knows that in an almost general practice, a ship 
takes cargo equal to half the weight of the water it could contain. Let us 
assume that a ship could hold eight hundred tons of water: its load 
would be four hundred tons; that of a ship which could hold only four 

24 Italy has almost nothing but roads, but Sicily has very good ports. 

25 1 say the province of Holland, for the ports of the province of Zeeland are quite deep. 


Part 4 

hundred tons of water would be two hundred tons. Thus, the size of the 
first ship to the weight it would carry would be as 8 is to 4; and that of 
the second, as 4 is to 2. Let us assume that the surface of the large one is 
to the surface of the small one, as 8 is to 6; the surface 26 of the latter to 
its weight will be as 6 is to 2; while the surface of the former to its weight 
will be only as 8 is to 4; and with the winds and the waves acting only on 
the surface of each, the large vessel with its weight will resist their 
impetus better than the small one. 

26 That is, to compare sizes of the same kind: the action or pressure of the water on the boat 
will be to the resistance of the same boat as . . . etc. 


On the commerce of the Greeks 

The first Greeks were all pirates. Minos, who had empire on the sea, 
was perhaps only a more successful bandit; his empire was limited to 
the environs of his island. But when the Greeks became a great people, 
the Athenians gained a true empire on the sea because this commercial 
and victorious nation gave laws to the most powerful monarch 27 at that 
time and crushed the maritime forces of Syria, of the island of Cyprus, 
and of Phoenicia. 

I must speak of Athens’ empire on the sea. “Athens,” says 
Xenophon, 28 

has empire on the sea, but as Attica is on the land, enemies ravage it 
when it makes expeditions to distant places. The principal men 
permit their lands to be destroyed and put their goods securely on 
some island; the populace, which has no lands, lives without worry. 

But if the Athenians lived on an island and had also empire on the 
sea, they would have the power to harm others and no one would be 
able to harm them, so long as they remained masters of the sea. 

You might say that Xenophon intended to speak of England. 

Athens, filled with projects for glory, Athens, which increased 
jealousy instead of increasing in influence, more attentive to extending 
its maritime empire than to using it, with a political government such 

27 The King of Persia. 

28 [Xenophon, “The Old Oligarch’’] The Constitution of Athens [2.14-16]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

that the common people distributed the public revenues to themselves 
while the rich were oppressed, did not engage in the great commerce 
promised it by the work of its mines, the multitude of its slaves, the 
number of its sailors, its authority over the Greek towns, and, more 
than all that, the fine institutions of Solon. Its trading was limited 
almost entirely to Greece and the Black Sea, from which it drew its 

Corinth was admirably well situated; it separated two seas, opened 
and shut the Peloponnesus, and opened and shut Greece. It was a town 
of the greatest importance in a time when the Greek people were a 
world, and the Greek towns, nations. It did a greater commerce than 
Athens. It had one port to receive commodities from Asia; it had 
another to receive those from Italy; for, as there were great difficulties 
in going around Cape Malea, where opposing winds 29 meet causing 
shipwrecks, one preferred to go to Corinth where vessels could even be 
carried overland from one sea to another. In no other town were works 
of art carried so far. Religion completed the corruption of what its 
opulence had left of its mores. It erected a temple to Venus, to whom 
more than a thousand courtesans were dedicated. From this seminary 
graduated most of the celebrated beauties whose history Athenaeus 
dared to write. 

It seems that in the time of Homer, the opulence of Greece was in 
Rhodes, Corinth, and Orchomenus. “Jupiter,” he says , 30 “loved the 
Rhodians and gave them great wealth.” He attached the epithet of 
wealthy to Corinth . 31 Similarly, when he wants to speak of towns having 
much gold, he cites Orchomenus , 32 which he adds to Thebes in Egypt. 
Rhodes and Corinth preserved their power and Orchomenus did not. 
The location of Orchomenus close to the Hellespont, Propontis, and 
the Black Sea naturally makes one think that it drew its wealth from 
commerce on the coasts of these seas, which occasioned the story of the 
golden fleece; and, indeed, the name of Minyan is given to Orcho- 
menus 33 and also to the Argonauts/ But later, as these seas became 

29 See Strabo [Geographical, bk. 8 [8.6.20]. 

30 [Homer] Iliad, bk. 2 [2.667-669]. 

31 Ibid. [Homer, Iliad 2.570]. 

32 Ibid. [Homer, Iliad\,bV.. 1,1.381 [9.381], See Strabo [Geo|ra/iAiVa],bk. 9, p. 414; 1620 edn 

33 Strabo [ Geographical , 6k. 9, p. 414 {9.2.40]. 

‘Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 2.1 186. 


Part 4 

better known, as the Greeks established a great number of colonists 
there, as these colonies dealt with the barbarian peoples, as they 
communicated with their mother country, Orchomenus began to 
decline, and it disappeared into the crowd of other Greek towns. 

Before Homer the Greeks had traded almost only with each other 
and with some barbarian peoples, but they extended their domination 
gradually as they formed new peoples. Greece was a great peninsula 
whose capes seemed to have made the seas roll back and the gulfs open 
on all sides as if to receive them. If one looks at Greece, one will see, in a 
rather compact country, a very extensive coastline. Innumerable col- 
onies lay in a wide circle around it; and in them the Greeks saw, so to 
speak, everyone who was not a barbarian. Did they penetrate Sicily and 
Italy? They formed nations there. Did they sail toward the Black Sea, 
toward the coasts of Asia Minor, toward those of Africa? They did the 
same. Their towns became prosperous the closer they were to the new 
peoples. And, remarkably, innumerable islands stood as if to make a 
wall around Greece. 

What causes for Greek prosperity were the games it gave, so to 
speak, to the universe; the temples to which all the kings sent offerings; 
the festivals where people gather from all parts; the oracles, which 
attracted all human curiosity; finally, taste and the arts, which were 
brought to a point that whoever believes they have been surpassed will 
forever be in ignorance of them?'' 

^This sentence ends in a question mark in the text. 


On Alexander. His conquest 

Four events occurred under Alexander that produced a great revolu- 
tion in commerce: the capture of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, that of 
the Indies, and the discovery of the sea to the south of that country. 

The empire of the Persians reached as far as the Indus . 34 Long 
before Alexander, Darius 35 had sent out sailors who descended this 

34 Strabo [Geographica], bk. 15 [15.2.1]. 

35 Herodotus [The Persian Wars] in Melpomene [4.44]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

river and went as far as the Red Sea/ How, therefore, could the Greeks 
have been the first to bring commerce to the Indies from the South? 
How had the Persians not done this before? Of what use to them were 
the seas that were so close to them, the seas that bathed the shores of 
their empire? It is true that Alexander conquered the Indies, but must 
one conquer a country in order to trade with it? I shall examine this. 

Ariana , 36 which stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Indus and 
from the Southern Sea to the mountains of the Paropamisus, was 
certainly dependent in some way on the Persian empire, but its 
southern part was arid, burned, uncultivated, and barbarian. Tradition 
says 37 that armies of Semiramis and of Cyrus had perished in these 
deserts, and Alexander, who had his fleet follow him, did not fail to lose 
a large part of his army. The Persians left the whole coast in the power 
of the Icthyophagi , 38 the Oreitae, and other barbarian peoples. Further, 
the Persians were not sailors, and their religion itself barred them from 
any idea of maritime commerce . 39 The voyage that Darius had them 
make down the Indus and the Indian Sea was the fancy of a prince who 
wants to show his power rather than the orderly project of a monarch 
who wants to use it. This had no consequences, either for commerce, 
or for sailing, and if one departed from ignorance, it was only to return 
to it shortly. 

There is more: it was accepted , 40 before Alexander’s expedition, that 
the southern part of the Indies was uninhabitable ; 41 this followed from 
a tradition that Semiramis 42 had brought back only twenty men and 
Cyrus only seven. 

Alexander entered from the north. His design was to march to the 

36 Strabo ( Geographical , bk. 15 [1 5.2.1]. 

37 Ibid. [Strabo, Geographica 15.2.5]. 

3S Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 23 [6.26.97]; Strabo [Geographica], bk. 15 

In order not to defile the elements, they did not navigate on the rivers. [Thomas] Hyde, 
Historia religionis veterum Persarum in Sad-der [chap. 6; p. 139; 1700 edn]. Still today they 
have no maritime commerce and they call those who sail the seas atheists. 

^Strabo [Geographica], bk. 15 [15. 1.5 and 15.2.5]. 

Herodotus [The Persian Wars] in Melpomene [4.44] says that Darius conquered the 
Indies. This can be understood only of Ariana; even so, it was only an imagined conquest. 
42 Strabo [Geographica], bk. 15 [15.1.5 and 15.2.5], 

Known today as the Persian Gulf. Montesquieu often uses the place names used in his 


Part 4 

east, but, upon finding the southern part full of great nations, towns, 
and rivers, he attempted to conquer it and did so. 

At that time he formed the design of uniting the Indies with the west 
by a maritime commerce, as he had united them by the colonies he had 
established on the land. 

He had a fleet built on the Hydaspes, descended this river, entered 
the Indus, and sailed to its mouth. He left his army and his fleet at 
Patala, went himself with some vessels to reconnoiter that sea, marked 
the places where he wanted ports, harbors, and arsenals constructed. 
On returning to Patala, he left his fleet and took the land route in order 
to help the fleet and receive help from it. The fleet followed the coast 
from the mouth of the Indus, along the shore of the countries of the 
Oreitae, of the Icthyophagi, of Caramania, and of Persia. He had wells 
dug and towns built; he prohibited the Ichthyophagi 43 from living on 
fish; he wanted the shores of this sea to be inhabited by civilized 
nations. Nearchus and Onescicritus kept a journal of this voyage, 
which took ten months. They arrived at Susa; they found Alexander 
there, feasting his army. 

This conqueror had founded Alexandria with a view to securing 
Egypt for himself; this was a key for opening it in the very place where 
the kings, his predecessors, had locked it ; 44 and he did not dream of 
commerce, the thought of which could come to him only with the 
discovery of the Indian Sea. 

It appears that even after this discovery he had no new views about 
Alexandria. He certainly had, in general, the project of establishing a 
commerce between the Indies and the western part of his empire, but 
he had too little information to be able to form the project of carrying 
this commerce through Egypt. He had seen the Indus; he had seen the 
Nile, but he did not know about the Arabian Seas that are between the 
two. He had scarcely arrived in the Indies when he had new fleets built 

43 This cannot be understood of all the Ichthyophagi [the Fish-Eaters] who inhabited a coast 
of ten thousand furlongs. How could Alexander have provided them their subsistence? 
How would he have made himself obeyed? Here it can be a question only of a few specific 
peoples. Nearchus, in the book [Arrian] Indica [28], says that at the extremity of this coast, 
near Persia, he had found some peoples whose diet was less dependent on fish. I would 
believe that this order of Alexander’s concerned this region or some other one even closer 
to Persia. 

Alexandria was founded near a beach called Rhacotes. Ancient kings kept a garrison there 
to protect the entrance of the country from foreigners and chiefly from the Greeks, who 
were, as is known, great pirates. See Pliny the Elder [ Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 10 
[5.11.62-63]; and Strabo [Geographical bk. 18 [17.1.6]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

and set sail 45 on the Eulaeus, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the sea; he 
removed the cataracts the Persians had put in these rivers; he dis- 
covered that the Persian Gulf was a gulf of the ocean. As he set out to 
explore this sea 46 in the same way he had explored that of the Indies, as 
he had a port for a thousand vessels and arsenals built in Babylon, as he 
sent five hundred talents to Phoenicia and Syria in order to attract 
pilots whom he wanted to settle in the colonies that he built along the 
coasts, and finally, as he did immense work on the Euphrates and the 
other Assyrian rivers, one cannot doubt that his design was to engage in 
commerce with the Indies through Babylon and the Persian Gulf. 

Some people, assuming that Alexander wanted to conquer Arabia , 47 
have said that he had formed the design of putting the seat of his empire 
there; but, how could he have chosen a place unknown to him ? 48 
Besides, it was the most out-of-the-way country in the world; he would 
have been separated from his empire. The caliphs, who conquered 
faraway lands, left Arabia immediately in order to establish themselves 

45 hmzn. Anabasis, bk. 7 [7.7]. 

"^Ibid. (Arrian, Anabasis 7.7]. 

47 Strabo [Geographical, at the end of bk. 16 [16.4.27]. 

48 Seeing Babylon flooded, he considered Arabia, which is nearby, an island. Aristobulus in 
Strabo [Geographical bk. 16 [16.1.11]. 


On the commerce of the Greek kings after Alexander 

When Alexander conquered Egypt, the Red Sea was almost unknown, 
and nothing was known of that part of the ocean that joins this sea and 
bathes the coast of Africa on one side and that of Arabia on the other; it 
was even believed later that it was impossible to go around the Arabian 
peninsula. Those who had tried to go around from each side had 
abandoned their enterprise. It was said : 49 “How would it be possible to 
sail south from the coasts of Arabia, as almost the whole army of 
Cambyses perished crossing Arabia from the north, and the army that 
Ptolemy, son of Lagus, sent to help Seleucus Nicator in Babylon 

49 See the book [Arrian] Indica [43.4-5]. 


Part 4 

suffered unbelievable ills and could march only at night because of the 

The Persians had no shipping of any sort. When they conquered 
Egypt, they brought with them the same spirit they had at home, and 
their indifference to sailing was so extreme that the Greek kings found 
them ignorant not only of the ocean voyages made by the Tyrians, the 
Idumaeans, and the Jews, but also even of those on the Red Sea. I 
believe that the destruction of the first Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, and 
that of several small nations and towns near the Red Sea, caused the 
loss of the knowledge that had been acquired. 

Egypt did not reach to the Red Sea in the time of the Persians; it 
included 50 only that long narrow strip of land covered by the Nile 
during its floods and enclosed on each side by mountain chains. 
Therefore, the Red Sea had to be discovered a second time, and the 
ocean a second time, too, and this discovery awaited the curiosity of the 
Greek kings. 

The Nile was explored; elephants were hunted in the countries 
between the Nile and the sea; the shores of this sea were discovered by 
land; and as this discovery was made under the Greeks, the names are 
Greek, and the temples are dedicated 51 to Greek divinities. 

The Greeks of Egypt were able to engage in a very extensive 
commerce: they were the masters of the Ports of the Red Sea; Tyre, the 
rival of every commercial nation, was no longer; the Greeks of Egypt 
were not hampered by that country’s ancient superstitions ; 52 Egypt had 
become the center of the universe. 

In the Indies, the kings of Syria left the commerce of the south to the 
kings of Egypt and pursued only that of the north through the Oxus and 
the Caspian Sea. It was believed at that time that this sea was a part of 
the northern ocean , 53 and that Alexander, some time before his death, 
had had a fleet built 54 in order to discover if it connected with the ocean 
by the Black Sea or by some other eastern sea toward the Indies. After 
him, Seleucus and Antiochus paid particular attention to its explora- 
tion; they stationed fleets there . 55 What Seleucus explored was called 

50 Srrabo, bk. 16 [Geographica 16.4.20]. 51 Ibid. [Strabo, Geographica 16.4.5-19.) 

52 They gave them a horror of foreigners. 

53 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis kistoria], bk. 2, chap. 68 [2.67.168] and bk. 6, chaps. 9 and 12 
[6.10.28; 6.14.33]; Strabo [Geographica], bk. 11 [11.1.5; 1 1.6.1]; \xnzTi, Anabasis, bk. 3, p. 
74 [3-30-7] and bk. 5, p. 104 [5.5.4]. 

54 Arrian, Anabasis, bk. 7 [7.16.1-2]. 

55 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 2, chap. 64 [2.67.168], 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

the Sea of Seleucus; what Antiochus discovered was called the Sea of 
Antiochus. While attending to projects they could undertake along this 
coast, they neglected the southern seas, either because the Ptolemies 
had already gained empire of them with their fleets on the Red Sea, or 
because they had discovered an unconquerable aversion among the 
Persians to seafaring. The southern coast of Persia did not furnish 
sailors; they were seen there only at the end of Alexander’s life. But the 
kings of Egypt, masters of the island of Cyprus, of Phoenicia, and of a 
large number of places on the coast of Asia Minor, had all sorts of ways 
of undertaking maritime enterprises. They did not have to constrain 
the genius of their subjects; they had only to follow it. 

One can scarcely understand the ancients’ obstinacy in believing that 
the Caspian Sea was a part of the ocean. The expeditions of Alexander, 
of the kings of Syria, of the Parthians and the Romans could not alter 
their thinking; this is because one retracts one’s errors as slowly as one 
can. At first only the southern part of the Caspian Sea was known; it was 
taken for the ocean; as one moved north along its shores, one still 
believed that it was the ocean extending inland; by following the coasts 
one explored to the east only as far as the Jaxartes, and to the west, only 
to the farthest points of Albania/ The sea to the north was muddy 56 and 
consequently little suited to navigation. The result of all this was that 
one always saw only the ocean. 

Alexander’s army had gone east only as far as the Hyphasis, which is 
the last of the rivers that flow into the Indus. Thus, the first commerce 
the Greeks had with the Indies was with a very small part of that 
country. Seleucus Nicator went as far as the Ganges , 57 and this led to 
the discovery of the sea into which that river flows, that is, the Gulf of 
Bengal. Today lands are discovered by sea voyages; formerly, seas were 
discovered by the conquest of lands. 

Strabo , 58 in spite of the testimony of Apollodorus, appears to doubt 
that the Greek kings of Bactria 59 went further than Seleucus and 
Alexander. If it is true that they did not go further east than Seleucus, 

56 See the Map of the Czar (see translators’ note at 21. n. 12]. 

57 Pliny the Elder [ Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 17 [6.21.63]. 

S8 [Strabo, Geographical bk. 15 [15. 1.3]. 

59 When the Macedonians of Bactria, of the Indies, and of Ariana separated from the 
kingdom of Syria, they formed a great state. 

This Albania is on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, north of the Kura River and 
south of the Caucasus Mountains. 


Part 4 

they went further south; they discovered 60 Siger and the ports of 
Malabar, which occasioned the navigation of which I am about to 

Pliny 61 tells us that three successive routes were taken to the Indies. 
First, one went from the headland of Siagre to the Island of Patala, 
which is at the mouth of the Indus; it will be remembered that this was 
the route taken by Alexander’s fleet. Then a shorter and more secure 
route 62 was found from this same headland to Sigerus. This Sigerus 
can only be the kingdom of Sigerus that Strabo mentions , 63 which was 
discovered by the Greek kings of Bactria. Pliny could say that this route 
was shorter only because it took less time, for Sigerus had to be further 
than the Indus, as it was discovered by the kings of Bactria. Therefore, 
this route must have avoided certain coasts, and certain winds must 
have been advantageous. Finally, the merchants took a third route; they 
went to Cane or to Celia, ports situated at the mouth of the Red Sea, 
from which by a west wind they came to Muziris, the first trading town 
in the Indies, and from there to other ports. One sees that instead of 
going from the mouth of the Red Sea to Siagre along the coast of 
Arabia Felix to the northeast, they went directly from west to east, from 
one side to the other, by means of the monsoon whose changes had 
been discovered while navigating these latitudes. The ancients left the 
coasts only when they took advantage of the monsoons 64 or the trade 
winds, which were a kind of compass for them. 

Pliny says 65 that they left for the Indies in the middle of the summer 
and returned toward the end of December and the beginning of 
January. This corresponds exactly with the journals of our navigators. 
In the part of the Indian Sea that lies between the peninsula of Africa 
and the one of this side of the Ganges, there are two monsoons: the 
first, during which winds go from west to east, begins in August and 
September; the second, when the winds go from east to west, begins in 
January. Thus, we leave Africa for Malabar at the time the fleet of 
Ptolemy left, and we return at the same time. 

60 Apollonius [Apollodorus] of Artemita, in Strabo [Geographica], bk. 1 1 [11.1 i.i]. 

61 {Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia] bk. 6, chap. 23 [6.26.96-101, 104-105]. 

62 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 23 (6.26. 101]. 

63 [Strabo, Geographica \ bk. n [11.11.1]: “the kingdom of Sigerdis” [L.]. 

64 The monsoons blow for a part of the year in one direction and for a part of the year in the 
other; the tradewinds blow in the same direction the year around. 

65 [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia ] bk. 6, chap. 23 [6.26. io6j. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

Alexander’s fleet took seven months to go from Patala to Susa. It left 
in the month of July, that is, at a time when no ship today dares put out 
to return from the Indies. Between the first and the second monsoon, 
there is a period when the winds vary and when a north wind, mixed 
with the ordinary winds, causes terrible storms, especially along the 
coasts. This lasts through the months of June, July, and August. 
Alexander’s fleet, leaving Patala in the month of July, endured many 
storms, and the voyage was long because the fleet sailed against the 

Pliny says that they left for the Indies at the end of the summer; thus 
they used the interval between the monsoons to travel from Alexandria 
to the Red Sea. 

See, I beg you, how navigation gradually improved. It took two and a 
half years for Darius to descend the Indus and reach the Red Sea . 66 
Alexander’s fleet 67 descended the Indus and arrived at Susa ten 
months later, having sailed three months on the Indus and seven on the 
Indian Sea. Later, the trip from the Malabar coast to the Red Sea was 
made in forty days . 68 

Strabo, who explains their ignorance of the countries between the 
Hyphasis and the Ganges, says that among the navigators who went 
from Egypt to the Indies few went as far as the Ganges. Indeed, one 
sees that their fleets did not go there; they went with the monsoons, 
from west to east, from the mouth of the Red Sea to the Malabar coast. 
They stopped at the trading towns and did not go around the peninsula, 
which lies this side of the Ganges, by Cape Comorin and the Coroman- 
del coast. The plan of navigation of the kings of Egypt and of the 
Romans was to return in the same year . 69 

Thus, the commerce of the Greeks and Romans in the Indies was far 
less extensive than ours; yet we know of immense countries that they 
did not know; we engage in commerce with all the Indian nations and 
even do their commerce and navigation for them. 

But they engaged in commerce with greater ease than we do, and if 
today we traded only on the coast of Gujarat and Malabar, and if, 
without seeking the Southern Islands, we were satisfied with the 
commodities the islanders would bring us, the Egyptian route would 

66 Herodotus [The Persian Wars], in Melpomene [4.44]. 

&7 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 6, chap. 23 [6.23.96-100]. 

68 Ibid. [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia 6.26.104]. 

69 Ibid. [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia 6.26.106]. 


Part 4 

have to be preferred to that of the Cape of Good Hope. Strabo says 70 
that trade with the peoples of Taprobane* was done in this way. 

70 [Strabo, Geographica ] bk. 15 [1 5.1. 14-15]. 

*Sri Lanka. 


On sailing around Africa 

We learn from history that before the discovery of the compass, there 
were four attempts to sail around Africa. The Phoenicians, who were 
sent first by Necho , 71 and then by Eudoxus , 72 fleeing the anger of 
Ptolemy-Lathyrus, set out from the Red Sea and succeeded. 
Sataspes , 73 under Xerxes, and Hanno, who was sent by the Cartha- 
ginians, went by way of the Pillars of Hercules and failed. 

The main problem in sailing around Africa was to discover and 
weather the Cape of Good Hope. But, if one set out from the Red Sea, 
this Cape was nearer by half than if one went by way of the Mediter- 
ranean. The coast from the Red Sea to the Cape is safer than 74 the one 
from the Cape to the Pillars of Hercules. For those who set out from 
the Pillars of Hercules to discover the Cape, the compass had to be 
invented, so that they could leave the coast of Africa and sail into the 
vast ocean , 75 either going towards the island of Saint Helena or towards 
the coast of Brazil. Therefore, it was quite possible for them to have 
gone from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean without ever going from 
the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. 

Thus, without making this great circuit, from which one could never 
return, it was more natural to engage in commerce with east Africa by 

71 Herodotus [The Persian Wars], bk. 4 [4.42]. 

72 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 2, chap. 67 [2.67.167-170]; Pomponius Mela [ De 
situ orbis], bk. 3, chap. 9 [3.9.20]. 

73 Herodotus [The Persian Wars ], in Melpomene [4.43]. 

74 Join to this what I say about Hanno’s navigation in chap. 1 1 of this book. 

75 A north-east wind is found in the Atlantic ocean in October, November, December, and 
January. One crosses the line and, to avoid the general east wind, one directs one’s route to 
the south, or else one enters the torrid zone where the wind blows from the west to the east. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

way of the Red Sea and with the west coast by way of the Pillars of 

In the Red Sea the Greek kings of Egypt first discovered the part of 
the African coast that stretches from the bottom of the gulf where the 
city of Heroum is situated to Deidre, that is, to the straits called Bab el 
Mandeb. From there to the Cape of Aromatum at the entrance to the 
Red Sea , 76 the coast had not been explored by sailors, and this is clear 
in what Artemidorus 77 tells us, that the places along this coast were 
known but the distances unknown; this came from the fact that one had 
explored these ports one by one over land routes, without going from 
one port to another. 

Nothing was known beyond the promontory where the coast of the 
ocean begins, as we learn 78 from Eratosthenes and Artemidorus. 

Such was the knowledge about the coasts of Africa in the time of 
Strabo, that is, in the time of Augustus. But, after Augustus, the 
Romans discovered Cape Raptum and Cape Prassum, which Strabo 
does not mention because they were not yet known. These two names 
are Roman. 

Ptolemy, the geographer, lived under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius; 
and the author of the Periplus of the Erythraien Sea, whoever he was, 
lived somewhat later. However, the former sets the limits of known 
Africa 79 at Cape Prassum, which is about fourteen degrees south 
latitude, and the author of the Periplus m sets them at Cape Raptum, 
which is about ten degrees south latitude. It appears that the latter took 
for the limit a place habitually reached, and Ptolemy a place one no 
longer went. 

What confirms me in this idea is that the peoples around the 
Prassum were cannibals . 81 Ptolemy, who tells us of a great number of 
places between the port of Aromatus and Cape Raptum , 82 leaves the 
space from the Rhaptum to the Prassum completely empty. The great 
profits from navigation to the Indies must have led to the neglect of 

76 The gulf to which we give this name today was called the Gulf of Arabia by the ancients: 
they called the part of the ocean that borders on this gulf the Red Sea. 

77 Strabo [Geographica], bk. 15 [16.4.5-19]. 

78 Strabo [ Geographical , bk. 16 [16.4.4-5]. Artemidorus followed the known coast to the 
place called Austricomu; the Eratosthenes, to that called ad Cinnamomiferam. 

79 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica ] bk. 1, chap. 7 and bk. 4, chap. 9 [1.7 and 4.7]; map 4 of 

80 This Periplus has been attributed to Arrian. 

81 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica }, bk. 4, chap. 9 [4.8(9)]. 

82 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica ] bk. 4, chaps. 7 and 8 [4.7, 8(9)]. 


Part 4 

African navigation. Finally, the Romans did not navigate regularly on 
this coast; they had discovered these ports by land and by ships driven 
there in storms; and just as today one knows the coasts of Africa rather 
well and the interior very poorly, 83 the ancients knew the interior rather 
well, and the coasts very poorly. 

1 have said that the Phoenicians, sent by Necho and Eudoxus under 
Ptolemy Lathyrus, had sailed around Africa; these two voyages must 
have been thought to be fables at the time of Ptolemy, the geographer, 
because he puts 84 below the Sinus Magnus, which is, I believe, the Gulf 
of Siam, an unknown land which extends from Asia and Africa to 
border upon Cape Prassum, making only a lake of the Indian Sea. The 
ancients, who explored the Indies from the north and advanced 
eastward, put this unknown land to the south. 

83 Note with what exactitude Strabo and Ptolemy describe the various parts of Africa. This 
knowledge came from the many wars that the Carthaginians and the Romans, the two 
most powerful nations in the world, had with the peoples of Africa and from the alliances 
they contracted and their commerce with these lands. 

84 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica] bk. 7, chap. 3 [7.3]. 


Carthage and Marseilles 

Carthage had a singular right of nations; it had all the foreigners who 
dealt with Sardinia and beyond it to the Pillars of Hercules drowned: 85 
its political right was no less extraordinary; it prohibited the Sardinians 
from cultivating their land on penalty of death. It increased its power by 
its wealth, and subsequently its wealth by its power. Master of the 
coasts of Africa washed by the Mediterranean, it also reached to the 
shores of the Ocean. Hanno, by order of the Senate of Carthage, 
distributed thirty thousand Carthaginians between the Pillars of 
Hercules and Ceme. He says that this place is as far from the Pillars of 
Hercules as the Pillars are from Carthage. This positioning is worthy of 
note; it shows that Hanno limited his establishments to twenty-five 
degrees north latitude, that is, two or three degrees south of the Canary 

Hanno, from Ceme, made another voyage whose purpose was to 
85 Eratosthenes, in Strabo [ Geographica ], bk. 17, p. 802 [17.x. 19]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

make discoveries further to the south. He gained almost no knowledge 
of the continent. He sailed along the coast for twenty-six days and was 
obliged to return for lack of food. It appears that the Carthaginians 
made no use of this enterprise of Hanno. Scylax 86 says that the sea is 
not navigable beyond Ceme 87 because it is shallow, full of silt and sea 
plants; actually, they are thick in this section of the ocean . 88 The 
Carthaginian merchants of whom Scylax speaks may have found 
obstacles that Hanno, with sixty ships of fifty oars each, had sur- 
mounted. Difficulties are relative, and moreover, one should not 
confuse an enterprise whose object is boldness and fearlessness with 
one that is the result of ordinary conduct. 

Hanno’s account is a fine bit of antiquity: the man who performed it 
wrote about it; he puts no ostentation in his narrations. The great 
captains write with simplicity about their actions because their glory 
comes more from what they have done than from what they have said. 

His subject is like his style. He does not tend to the marvelous; all 
that he says of the climate, the terrain, the mores, and the manners of 
the inhabitants relates to what one sees today on the coast of Africa; it 
seems to be the journal of one of our own sailors. 

Hanno observed from his fleet that during the day a vast silence 
reigned over the continent, that during the night one heard the sounds 
of various musical instruments, and that one saw fires everywhere, 
some large and some small . 89 Our accounts confirm this; it has been 
found that the savages stay in the forests in the daytime in order to avoid 
the heat of the sun, that at night they make large fires to keep away the 
wild beasts, and that they passionately love dancing and musical 

Hanno describes a volcano displaying the phenomena Vesuvius 
shows today, and his account of two hairy women, who preferred to 
be killed than to follow the Carthaginians and whose skins he took 

86 See his Periplus, in the section on Carthage [Scylax Caryandensis, Periplus, “Carthage,” 
#112, Geographi Gracei minores, i, 93-94]. 

87 See Herodotus [The Persian Wars], Melpomene [4.43], about the obstacles Sataspes 

88 See the maps and accounts in the first volume of the Recueil des Voyages qui ont servi d 
I’etablissement de la Compagnie des Indes , pt. 1, p. 20 x [“Relation du premier voiage des 
Hollandais”, 1, 206; 1702 edn; 1, 201; 1725 edn]. This plant covers the surface of the sea 
so that one can scarcely see the water, and vessels can cross it only with a fresh wind. 

89 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia 5.1.7], speaking of Mount Adas, tells us the same thing: 
“At night it flashes with numerous fires, the playing of flutes and tambourines resounds, 
by day no one is seen” [L.]. 


Part 4 

to Carthage, is not, in spite of what has been said, altogether unlikely. 

This account is all the more precious because it is a Punic record; 
and because it is a Punic record, it has been regarded as a legend. For, 
the Romans preserved their hatred of the Carthaginians even after 
destroying them. But it was only their victory that determined whether 
one would say Punic faith or Roman faith. 

Some modems 90 have continued this prejudice. What has become, 
they ask, of the towns Hanno describes to us and of which, even in the 
time of Pliny, there remained no vestige? It would have been a marvel if 
they had remained. Was it Corinth or Athens that Hanno was going to 
build on these shores? He left Carthaginian families at locations 
suitable for commerce and quickly made them secure from the savage 
men and wild beasts. The calamities of the Carthaginians put an end to 
navigation around Africa; these families surely must have perished or 
become savage. I say further: if the ruins of these towns still remained, 
who would have gone to discover them in the woods and marshes? One 
finds, however, in Scylax and Polybius, that the Carthaginians had 
great establishments on these shores. Here are the vestiges of the towns 
of Hanno; there are no others because there are hardly any others of 
Carthage itself. 

The Carthaginians were on the path to wealth, and if they had gone 
to four degrees north latitude and fifteen degrees longitude,'' they 
would have discovered the Gold Coast and the neighboring coasts. 
They would have engaged in a commerce there of an importance quite 
different from that of the present, when America seems to have 
depreciated the wealth of all the other countries; they would have 
found treasures that could not have been taken away by the Romans. 

Surprising things have been said about the wealth of Spain. If one 
believes Aristotle , 91 the Phoenicians who landed at Tartessus found so 
much silver there that their ships could not hold it, and they had their 
most common utensils made of this metal. The Carthaginians, accord- 
ing to the report of Diodorus , 92 found so much gold and silver in the 

90 [Henry) Dodwell: see his treatise on the Periplus of Hanno. [Not Hanno, but Dissertation 
deArriani Nearcho, p. 251; 1798 edn.) 

91 [Aristotle] De mirabilibus auscultaiionibus [844318-23, #135]. 

92 (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historica] bk. 6 [5.35.4]. 

* Montesquieu’s map placed o degrees longitude at Dakar, about 14 degrees west of 
Greenwich. This location would now be about t degree west longitude. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

Pyrenees that they put it on the anchors of their ships. One must not 
rely on these popular accounts; here are some precise facts. 

One sees in a fragment of Polybius, cited by Strabo , 93 that the silver 
mines, which were at the source of the Baetis' where forty thousand 
men were employed, gave the Roman people twenty-five thousand 
drachmas a day; this is about five million livres a year at fifty francs a 
mark. The mountains where these mines were found were called the 
Silver Mountains , 94 which shows that it was the Potosi of those times. 
Today the mines of Hanover do not have a quarter of the workers that 
were employed in those of Spain, and they produce more; but as the 
Romans had almost only copper mines and few silver mines and the 
Greeks knew only of the very poor mines in Attica, they must have been 
astonished by the abundance of the Spanish mines. 

In the War of the Spanish Succession, a man called the Marquis of 
Rhodes, of whom it was said that he had been ruined by gold mines and 
made wealthy by poorhouses , 95 proposed to the court of France to open 
the mines in the Pyrenees. He cited the Tyrians, the Carthaginians, 
and the Romans: he was permitted to search; he sought, he dug 
everywhere; he continued to cite them, and he found nothing. 

The Carthaginians, masters of the commerce in gold and silver, also 
wanted to be masters of the commerce in lead and tin. These metals 
were conveyed over land from the ports of Gaul on the ocean to those of 
the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians wanted to receive them them- 
selves; they sent Himilco to form 96 establishments on the Cassiterides 
Islands, which are believed to be the Scilly Islands. 

These voyages from Baetica to England have made some people 
think that the Carthaginians had compasses, but it is clear that they 
followed the coasts. I need no other proof than the comments by 
Himilco, who took four months to go from the mouth of the Baetis to 
England; in addition, the famous story 97 of that Carthaginian pilot who, 
on seeing a Roman vessel approach, ran aground in order not to let him 
know the route to England 98 shows that these vessels were very near the 
coasts when they met. 

93 [Strabo, Geographica ] bk. 3 [3.2.10]. 94 Mons Argentarius. 

95 He had had charge of infirmaries somewhere. 

96 See [Rufus] Festus Avienus [Carmina, Orae maritimae 4.259-264]. 

97 Strabo [Geographica ], bk. 3 [3.5. n) toward the end. 

98 He was rewarded for it by the Senate of Carthage. 

'the Gaudalquivir. 


Part 4 

The ancients may have made sea voyages which would suggest that 
they had compasses, although they had none. If a pilot was far from the 
coasts and there was a quiet time during his voyage, if at night he could 
see the North Star and in the daytime the rising and setting of the sun, it 
is clear that he could have guided himself as one does today by a 
compass; but this would be a fortuitous event and not a regular voyage. 

One can see in the treaty which ended the First Punic War that 
Carthage was principally concerned with preserving its empire of the 
sea, and Rome, with keeping that of the land. Hanno" declared in the 
negotiation with the Romans that he would not even suffer them to 
wash their hands in the seas of Sicily; they were not permitted to 
navigate beyond the promontorium pulchrumi they were prohibited 100 
from trading in Sicily , 101 Sardinia, and Africa, except in Carthage; this 
exception shows that no advantageous commerce awaited them there. 

In earliest times there were great wars between Carthage and 
Marseilles 102 over fishing grounds. After the peace they both engaged 
in economic commerce. Marseilles was the more jealous because, 
while equaling its rival in industry, it had become inferior in power; this 
is the reason for its great faithfulness to the Romans. The war the 
Romans waged against the Carthaginians in Spain was a source of 
wealth for Marseilles, which served as their storehouse. The ruin of 
Carthage and Corinth increased further the glory of Marseilles; and, if 
it had not been for the civil wars in which one had blindly to choose a 
party, it would have been happy under the protection of the Romans, 
who were not jealous of its commerce. 

"Livy. Johann Freinsheim, Supplementorum Livianorum , decade 2, bk. 6 [16,20]. 

100 Polybius [Historiae], bk. 3 [3.23-27]. 

101 In the part subject to the Carthaginians. 

l02 Justin [. Epitoma historiamm Philippicarum], bk. 43, chap. 5 [43-5.2]. 

’ beau promontoire. Montesquieu has translated this and other Latin terms into French, 
although they are often left in Latin in English texts. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 


The island of Delos. Mithridates 

When Corinth was destroyed by the Romans, the merchants withdrew 
to Delos. Because of religion and the people’s veneration, this island 
was regarded as a secure place ; 103 moreover, it was very well situated 
for commerce with Italy and Asia, which had become more important 
after the destruction of Africa and the weakening of Greece. 

As we have said, the Greeks sent colonies to the Propontis and the 
Black Sea from the earliest times; these colonies preserved their laws 
and their liberty under the Persians. Alexander, who moved only 
against the barbarians, did not attack them . 104 It does not even seem 
that the kings of Pontus, who occupied many of them, took away their 
political government . 105 

The power of these kings increased as soon as they had subdued 
these colonies . 106 Mithridates was in a position to buy troops 
everywhere, to repair his losses continually , 107 to have workers, vessels, 
and machines of war, to procure allies for himself, to corrupt those of 
the Romans and even the Romans, to hire as mercenaries 108 the 
barbarians of Asia and Europe, to wage war for a long time, and 
consequently to discipline his troops; he was able to arm them, to 
instruct them in the military art of the Romans , 109 and to form units of 
considerable size from the deserters; finally, he was able to sustain 
great losses and suffer great setbacks without being ruined; and he 
would not have been ruined if the voluptuous and barbaric king had not 

103 See Strabo [Geographica], bk. io [10.5.4]. 

104 He strengthened the liberty of the town of Amisus, an Athenian colony, which had enjoyed 
a popular state even under Persian kings. Lucullus, who took Sinope and Amisus, 
returned their liberty' to them and recalled the inhabitants who had fled in their ships. 

105 See what Appian writes about the Phanagoreans, the Amisians, and the Sinopians in his 
book [Roman History], The War with Mithridates (12.78,83,1 13,120). 

106 See Appian on the immense treasures Mithridates used in his wars, those he had hidden, 
those he so often lost through the treason of his people, and those found after his death. 
(Appian, Roman History, The War with Mithridates 12.69,85,87,112,115.] 

107 At one time he lost 170,000 men, and new armies reappeared instantly. [Appian, Roman 
History, The War with Mithridates 12.112.] 

l08 See Appian [Roman History], The War with Mithridates [12.69]. 

109 Ibid. [Appian, Roman History , The War with Mithridates 12.68.] 


Part 4 

destroyed during prosperity what the great prince had done during 

Thus, at the time when the Romans were at the height of their 
greatness and seemed to have nothing to fear but themselves, Mith- 
ridates challenged what had been decided by the capture of Carthage, 
and by the defeats of Philip, Antiochus, and Perseus. Never was war 
more deadly; and, as the two parties each had great power and 
alternating advantages, the peoples of Greece and Asia were destroyed, 
either as friends of Mithridates or as his enemies. Delos was overrun by 
the common misfortune. Commerce entirely collapsed; it had to meet 
with destruction, as the peoples were destroyed. 

The Romans, who followed a system of which I have spoken 
elsewhere 110 and acted as destroyers in order not to appear as con- 
querors, wrecked Carthage and Corinth, and perhaps they would have 
been destroyed by such a practice, if they had not conquered the whole 
earth. When the kings of Pontus made themselves masters of the Greek 
colonies on the Black Sea, they took care not to destroy that which was 
to be the cause of their greatness. 

"°In [M.’s] Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline [chap. 6; 
PP- 72-731- 

k la mauvaise fortune. Ordinarily fortune has been translated as “fortune.” 


On the genius of the Romans for sailing 

The Romans cared only for land troops, whose spirit made them stand 
ever firm, fight in one place, and die there. They did not esteem the 
practice of seafaring people, who offer themselves for combat, with- 
draw, return, always evading danger, employing stratagems, and rarely 
force. This was not part of the genius of the Greeks . 111 still less was it 
that of the Romans. 

Therefore, they destined for sailing only those whose means were 
not considerable enough 112 to give them a place in the legions; 
ordinarily, the seamen were freed men. 

1,1 As Plato observed in Book 4 of the Lams [7068-707!)]. 

I12 Polybius [Historiae J, bk. 5 [6.19.3J. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

Today we do not have the same esteem for land troops, or the same 
scorn for those of the sea. Among the first , 113 art has diminished; 
among the second , 114 it has increased: now, one esteems a thing in 
proportion to the degree of competence required to do it well. 

1 13 See [M.’s] Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline [chap. 
3; PP- 33 - 371 - 

114 Ibid. [M.’s Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, chap. 
4; PP- 48-49)- 


On the genius of the Romans for commerce 

The Romans were never notable for jealousy over commerce. It was as 
a rival nation and not as a commercial nation that they attacked 
Carthage. They favored the towns that engaged in commerce, though 
these were not subject towns; thus, they increased the power of 
Marseilles by the cession of many countries to it. They feared 
everything from the barbarians, and nothing from a trading people. 
Moreover, their genius, their glory, their military education, and the 
form of their government drew them away from commerce. 

In the towns they were occupied only with wars, elections, intrigues, 
and law-suits; in the countryside, with agriculture; and in the prov- 
inces, a harsh and tyrannical government was incompatible with 

But, if their political constitution was opposed to commerce, their 
right of nations found it no less repugnant. “Those peoples,” said the 
jurist Pomponius , 115 “with whom we have neither friendships nor 
hospitality nor alliance are not our enemies; nevertheless, if a thing that 
belongs to us falls into their hands, they are its owners; freemen 
become their salves; and they are on the same terms in regard to us.” 

Their civil right was no less oppressive. The law of Constantine, 
after declaring the children of mean persons who had married persons 
of a higher condition to be bastards, makes no distinction between the 
women who have a shop for commodities 1 16 and slaves, tavern-keepers, 

1IS Law5,para. 2 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 49. 1 5 .2 ] ; captivis et de postliminio et redemplts ab 

H6 “Those women who preside over merchandise in public” [L.]. Law 1, Code [Corpus Juris 
Civilis, Code 5.27.1]; de naturalibus liberis. 


Part 4 

women of the theater, and the daughters of a man who keeps a house of 
prostitution or of one who has been condemned to fight in the arena: 
this came down from the ancient Roman institutions. 

I know well that people, filled with two ideas, the one that commerce 
is the most useful thing in the world to a state, and the other, that the 
Romans had the best police in the world, have believed that the 
Romans greatly encouraged and honored commerce; but the truth is 
that they rarely thought about it. 

chapter 15 

The commerce of the Romans with the barbarians 

The Romans made a vast empire of Europe, Asia and Africa; the 
weakness of the peoples and the tyranny of the command united all the 
parts of this immense body. Then, Roman policy was to be separate 
from all the nations that had not yet been subjected; fear of giving them 
the art of conquering led the Romans to neglect the art of enriching 
themselves. They made laws to halt all commerce with barbarians. 
“Let no one,” say Valens and Gratian , 117 “send wine, oil, or other 
liquors to barbarians, even for them to taste.” “Let no one carry gold to 
them and see that even what they have of it is cleverly taken away,” 
added Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius . 118 The transport of iron 
was prohibited on penalty of death . 119 

Domitian, a timid prince, had the grape vines uprooted in Gaul 120 
from the fear, doubtless, that the wine might attract the barbarians, as it 
had formerly attracted them to Italy. Probus and Julian, who never 
feared the barbarians, replanted the vines. 

I know very well that, when the empire became weak, the barbarians 
obliged the Romans to establish trading centers 121 and engage in 

1 1 7 Law ad Barbaricum, Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 4.41. 1]; quae res exportari non debeant. 

1 1 8 Law 2, Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 4.63.2]; decommerciis et mercatoribus. 

H9 Law 2 [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 4.41.2]; quae res exportari non debeant. 

120 Procopius, Persian Wars, bk. 1 . (This does not appear to be in Procopius. The story about 
Domitian comes from Suetonius, Vitae duodecim Caesarum, Domitian 14.2 and 7.2; on 
Probus, see Augustan History, Vopiscus, Probus 28.18.8. On the topic of vineyards, there is 
interesting information in Cicero, De republica 3.9.16, but this passage was not known to 

l2, See [M.’s] Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline, Paris, 
1755 edn [chap. 19, p. 182, n. 12; 1965 edn]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

commerce with them. But this proves that commerce was not a part of 
the Roman spirit. 


On the commerce of the Romans with Arabia and the Indies 

Trade with Arabia Felix and trade with the Indies were the two 
branches, and almost all the branches, of their external commerce. The 
Arabs had great wealth; they drew it from their sea and forests, and, as 
they bought little and sold much, they drew 122 to themselves the gold 
and silver of their neighbors. Augustus 123 knew their opulence and 
resolved to have them either for friends or for enemies. He sent Aelius 
Gallus from Egypt to Arabia. Gallus found the peoples idle, quiet, and 
unwarlike. He fought battles, staged sieges, and lost only seven 
soldiers, but the perfidy of his guides, the marching, the climate, along 
with hunger, thirst, sickness, and ill-chosen measures made him lose 
his army. 

One had, therefore, to be content to trade with the Arabs as other 
peoples had, that is, to bring them gold and silver for their commodi- 
ties. Commerce continues with them in the same manner today; the 
caravan of Aleppo and the royal vessel of Suez take immense sums 
there . 124 

Nature destined the Arabs to commerce; she had not destined them 
for war; but, when these tranquil peoples found themselves between 
the Parthians and the Romans, they became the auxiliaries of both. 
Aelius Gallus had found them a commercial people, Mohammed 
found them warriors; he gave them enthusiasm, and they became 

The Romans did considerable commerce in the Indies. Strabo 125 
learned in Egypt that the Romans employed one hundred and twenty 
ships in that commerce; it was still sustained only by their silver. They 

122 Pliny the Elder [Naturalis historia], bk. 7, chap. 28 [6.32.162]; and Strabo [Geographical, 
bk. 16 [16.4.22]. 

123 Ibid. [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia 6.32.162, and Strabo, Geographica 16.4.22]. 

124 The caravans of Aleppo and Suez take two million of our money there and an equal sum is 
smuggled in; the royal vessel of Suez also takes two million there. 

125 [Strabo, Geographica ] bk. 2, p. 81 [2.5.12]. 


Part 4 

sent fifty million sesterces there every year. Pliny 126 says that the 
commodities they brought back were sold in Rome at a hundred times 
their cost. I believe he speaks too generally; if this profit is made once, 
everyone will want to make it, and, from then on, no one will make 

One can enquire whether it was to the Romans’ advantage to engage 
in commerce with Arabia and the Indies. They had to send their silver 
there, and they did not have, as we do, the resource of America, which 
replaces what we send. I am persuaded that one of the reasons for the 
increase in the numerary value of their monies/ that is, for the 
establishment of copper or nickel coinage, was the scarcity of silver 
caused by its continual transport to the Indies. For if the goods of this 
country were sold in Rome at a hundred times their cost, the profit of 
the Romans was made from Romans themselves and did not enrich the 

One will be able to say, on the other hand, that this commerce 
procured a great navigation for the Romans, that is, a great power; that 
new commodities increased internal commerce, favored the arts, 
supported industiy; that the number of citizens increased in proportion 
to the new means for making a living; that this new commerce 
produced luxury, which we have proved to be as favorable to the 
government of one alone as it is fatal to that of many; that this 
establishment dated from the fall of their republic; that the luxury of 
Rome was necessary; and that a town that attracted all the wealth of the 
universe had to pay for that wealth with her luxury. 

Strabo 127 says that the Romans’ commerce with the Indies was even 
more considerable than that of the kings of Egypt; and it is singular that 
the Romans, who knew little about commerce, paid more attention to 
commerce with the Indies than did the kings of Egypt, who had it, so to 
speak, under their noses. This must be explained. 

After the death of Alexander, the kings of Egypt established a 
maritime commerce with the Indies; and the kings of Syria, who held 
the easternmost provinces of the empire and consequently the Indies, 
maintained the commerce by both land and river we have mentioned in 

126 [Pliny the Elder, Naturalis hisloria] bk. 6, chap. 23 [6.26. iorj. 

127 He says in bk. 1 2 that the Romans used 1 20 ships there; and in bk. 1 7, that the Greek kings 
sent scarcely twenty. [Strabo, Geographica 2.5.12 and 17.1.13.] 

7 More units of the money were required for each unit of silver. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

Chapter 6, which was made easier by the establishment of Macedonian 
colonies: the result was that Europe communicated with the Indies 
both by way of Egypt and by way of the kingdom of Syria. The 
dismemberment of the kingdom of Syria, from which the kingdom of 
Bactria was formed, did no harm to this commerce. Marinus, the 
Tyrian, who is cited by Ptolemy, 128 speaks of the discoveries made in 
the Indies by some Macedonian merchants. Discoveries not made by 
the expeditions of the kings were made by these merchants. We see in 
Ptolemy 129 that they went from the Stone Tower 130 to Sera; and their 
discovery of a market town so distant, situated in the eastern and 
northern part of China, was a kind of wonder. Thus, under the kings of 
Syria and of Bactria, commodities from southern India passed by way 
of the Indus, the Oxus, and the Caspian Sea, to the west; and those of 
the more easterly and northerly regions were carried from Sera, the 
Stone Tower, and other market towns to the Euphrates. These 
merchants followed a route that lay along forty degrees north latitude, 
through the countries situated in western China, which had more of a 
police then than today because the Tartars had not yet tainted them. 

Now, while the empire of Syria was expanding its commerce so 
greatly over land, Egypt did not much increase its maritime commerce. 

The Parthians appeared and founded their empire; and, when Egypt 
fell under Roman power, this empire was at its full force and at its full 

The Romans and the Parthians were two rival powers, who fought, 
not to know which of them should reign, but which should exist. 
Uninhabited areas formed between the two empires; one always went 
armed between the empires; for from there being commerce, there was 
not even communication. Ambition, jealousy, religion, hatred, and 
mores completed the separation. Thus commerce between the west 
and the east, which had followed several routes, now followed only one; 
and as Alexandria had become the only market town, it grew. 

I shall say but a word about internal commerce. Its principal branch 
was in the grains that were ordered for the sustenance of the Roman 
people; this was more a concern of the police than an object for 

l28 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica ] bk. i, chap. 2 [1.11). 

129 [Claudius Ptolemy, Geographica ] bk. 6, chap. 13 [6.13]. 

1,0 Our best maps place the Stone Tower at 100 longitude and at about 40 latitude. [These 
measurements refer to the map in this text. The Stone Tower was a fortification 
mentioned by ancient geographers that stood on the Bactrian frontier. See bk. 21, nA] 


Part 4 

commerce. In these circumstances sailors received certain privileges 131 
because the health of the empire depended on their vigilance. 

131 Suetonius [Vitae duodecim Caesarum ], Claudius [18-19]. Law 7, Codex Theodosianus 
[! 3. 5. 7]; de naviculariis. 


On commerce after the destruction of the 
Romans in the West 

The Roman empire was invaded, and one of the effects of the general 
calamity was the destruction of commerce. The barbarians regarded it 
at first as only an object for their banditry, and when they established 
themselves, they honored it no more than they did agriculture and the 
other professions of the vanquished people. 

Soon there was almost no more commerce in Europe; the nobility, 
who reigned everywhere, did not trouble themselves with it. 

The law of the Visigoths 132 permitted individuals to occupy half the 
bed on the great rivers, provided the other half remained free for nets 
and boats; there must not have been much commerce in the countries 
they conquered. 

At that time the senseless rights of escheatage and shipwreck were 
established; men thought that, as foreigners were not united with them 
by any communication of the civil right, they did not owe them, on the 
one hand, justice of any sort or, on the other, pity of any sort. 

Given the narrow bounds within which the northern peoples lived, 
everything was foreign to them; given their poverty, eveiything was an 
object of wealth to them. Established before their conquests on the 
shores of a confined sea full of reefs, they drew profit from the reefs 

But the Romans, who made laws for the whole universe, had made 
very humane ones concerning shipwrecks ; 133 they restrained in that 
regard the banditry of those who inhabited the coasts, and furthermore, 
they restrained their rapacious fisc . 134 

xn [Lex Wisigothorum ] bk. 8, tit. 4, para. 9 (8.4.29]. 

133 The entire title [Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest 47.9]; de incendio ruina naufragio rate nave 
expugnata ; Code [Corpus Juris Civilis, Code 11.6]; de naufragiis, and Law 3 [ Corpus Juris 
Civilis, Digest 48.8.1 .3]; ad legem Comeliam desicariis et veneficis. 

134 Law 1 [Corpus Juris Civilis], Code [11.6(5).!]; de naufragiis. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

chapter 18 

A particular regulation 

A law of the Visigoths , 135 however, had a provision favorable to 
commerce: it ordered that the merchants who came from across the sea 
would be judged by the laws and the judges of their own nation when 
differences sprang up among them. This was founded on the usage 
established among all these combinations of peoples, that each man 
should live under his own law, something I shall discuss later at 

135 [Lex Wisigothorum] bk. n, tit. 3, para. 2 [1 1.3.2]. 

"See Book 28. 


On commerce after the weakening of the Romans in the East 

The Mohammedans appeared, conquered, and were divided. Egypt 
had its own sovereign. It continued to engage in commerce with the 
Indies. Master of the goods of that country, it attracted the wealth of all 
the others. Its sultans were the most powerful princes of those times; 
one can see in history how, with a constant and well-managed force, 
they checked the ardor, fire, and impetuosity of the crusaders. 


How commerce in Europe penetrated barbarism 

When the philosophy of Aristotle was brought to the West, the shrewd 
minds, who are the great minds in times of ignorance, found it very 
agreeable. The schoolmen were infatuated with it and took from this 
philosopher 136 many explanations on lending at interest, whereas its 
very natural source was the gospel; they condemned it without distinc- 

136 See Aristotle, Pol , bk. 1, chaps. 9, 10 [i256b40-i258b8]. 


Part 4 

tion and in every case. Thus, commerce, which was the profession only 
of mean people, also became that of dishonest people; for, whenever 
one prohibits a thing that is naturally permitted or necessary, one only 
makes dishonest the people who do it. 

Commerce passed to a nation then covered with infamy, and soon it 
was no longer distinguished from the most horrible usuries, from 
monopolies, from the levy of subsidies, and from all the dishonest 
means of acquiring silver. 

The Jews , 137 who were made wealthy by their exactions, were 
pillaged with the same tyranny by the princes, a thing that consoled the 
people and did not relieve them. 

What happened in England will give an idea of what was done in 
other countries. When King John 138 imprisoned the Jews in order to 
have their goods, there were few who did not have at least an eye put 
out; thus did this king conduct his chamber of justice. A Jew who had 
had seven teeth pulled out, one each day, gave ten thousand silver 
marks on the eighth. From Aaron, a Jew of York, Henry III got fourteen 
thousand silver marks and ten thousand for the queen. In those times, 
one did violently what is done in Poland today with some measure. As 
the kings were not able to search into the pockets of their subjects 
because of their privileges, they tortured the Jews, who were not 
regarded as citizens. 

Finally, the custom was introduced of confiscating the goods of the 
Jews who embraced Christianity. We know of this outlandish custom 
from the law abrogating it . 139 The reasons given for it have been veiy 
empty; it has been said that one wanted to test them and make nothing 
remain of their enslavement to the devil. But, it is clear that this 
confiscation was a kind of right of amortization 140 of the taxes which the 

137 See in [Pierre de Marca] Marca Hispanica, the constitutions of Aragon of the years 1228 
[chap. 507, pp. 1415-1416; see alsopp. 522-528; 1688 edn] and 1231 [chap. 51 1, 1233, 
p. 1427; 1688 edn]; in [Nicolas] Brussel [Nouvel exameti del’usage general des fiefs en France 
pendant leXle, leXIIe, leXIIIe et leXIVe siecle ], the agreement of 1 206 reached between the 
king, the countess of Champagne, and Guy de Dampierre. [Actually 1 200, vol. 2, Chartres, 
lettres-patentes , traites; xxii-xxiii; 1727 edn.} 

138 [John] Stow, in his Survey of London, bk. 3, p. 54 [“Coleman Street Ward”; 1, 279-280; 
1908 edn; pp. 250-251; 1929 edn], 

139 Edict given at Baville, April 4, 1392. [Actually Abbeville, April 25, 1393. Recueil general des 
anciennes lots franaises, #181; 6, 728-729.] 

140 In France, the Jews were serfs subject to mortmain and the lords inherited from them. 
[Nicolas] Brussel reports an agreement of 1 206 between the king and Thibaut, Count of 
Champagne, by which it was agreed that the Jews of the one would not lend in the land of 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

prince or the lords levied on the Jews and which they were denied when 
the latter embraced Christianity. In those times, men were regarded as 
lands. And, I shall note in passing how much one has toyed with that 
nation from one century to another. Their goods were confiscated 
when they wanted to be Christians, and soon afterwards they were 
burned when they did not want to be Christians. 

Nevertheless, one saw commerce leave this seat of harassment and 
despair. The Jews, proscribed by each country in turn, found the 
means for saving their effects. In that way, they managed to fix their 
refuges forever; a prince who wanted very much to be rid of them would 
not, for all that, be in a humor to rid himself of their silver. 

They invented letters of exchange , 141 and in this way commerce was 
able to avoid violence and maintain itself everywhere, for the richest 
trader had only invisible goods, which could be sent everywhere and 
leave no trace anywhere. 

Theologians were obliged to curb their principles, and commerce, 
which had been violently linked to bad faith, returned, so to speak, to 
the bosom of integrity. 

Thus, to the speculations of the schoolmen we owe all the mis- 
fortunes 142 that accompanied the destruction of commerce; and to the 
avarice of princes we owe the establishment of a device that puts it, in a 
way, out of their power. 

Since that time princes have had to govern themselves more wisely 
than they themselves would have thought, for it turned out that great 
acts of authority were so clumsy that experience itself has made known 
that only goodness of government brings prosperity. 

One has begun to be cured of Machiavellianism, and one will 
continue to be cured of it. There must be more moderation in councils. 
What were formerly called coups d'etat would at present, apart from 
their horror, be only imprudences. 

And, happily, men are in a situation such that, though their passions 

the other. [Nicolas Brussel, Nouvel examen de I’usage general des fiefs en France pendant leXIe, 
leXIIe, le XHIe et le XlVe siecles. Actually 1200, vol. 2, Chartes, lettres-patentes, traites\ xxii- 
xxiii; 1727 edn.] 

141 It is known that under Philip Augustus and Philip the Tall, the Jews, driven out of France 
took refuge in Lombardy and that there they gave the foreign traders and travelers secret 
letters for those to whom they had entrusted their effects in France, with which their debts 
were paid. 

,42 See, in the Corpus of the Law, Novellae Leonis 83, which revokes the law of Basil, his 
father. The law of Basil is in [Konstantin] Hermenopoulus [Manuale legum sive Hexabiblos] 
under “Leon,” bk. 3, tit. 7, para. 27 [3.7.24]. 


Part 4 

inspire in them the thought of being wicked, they nevertheless have an 
interest in not being so. 


The discovery of two new worlds: the state of 
Europe in this regard 

The compass opened the universe, so to speak. Discovery was made of 
Asia and Africa of which only some coasts had been known, and of 
America, which had been completely unknown. 

The Portuguese, sailing the Atlantic Ocean, discovered the southern 
tip of Africa; they saw a vast sea; it carried them to the East Indies. 
Their perils on this sea and the discovery of Mozambique, Melinde, 
and Calicut were sung by de Camoens, " in whose poetry one feels 
something of the charms of the Odyssey and the magnificence of the 

Until then the Venetians had engaged in commerce with the Indies 
through the countries of the Turks and had pursued it in the midst of 
insults and outrages. By the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and 
by other discoveries made soon after, Italy was no longer at the center 
of the commercial world; it was in a comer of the universe, so to speak, 
and it remains there today. As the commerce of the Levant itself 
depends today on that done by the great nations in the two Indies, Italy 
engages in it now only in a secondary way. 

The Portuguese dealt in the Indies as conquerors; the laws 143 
hampering commerce that the Dutch impose at present on the com- 
merce of the petty Indian princes were established by the Portuguese 
before them. 

The House of Austria had a prodigious fortune. Charles inherited 
Burgundy together with Castile and Aragon; he succeeded to an 
empire; and, in order to procure for him a new kind of greatness, the 
universe expanded and a new world obedient to him appeared. 

Christopher Columbus discovered America, and, though Spain sent 

143 See the account of Francois Pyrurd [Voyage], pt. 2, chap. 15 [vol. 2,pt. i,chap. 15; 2, 204- 
205; 1887-1890 edn]. 

"Luis Vaz de Camoens. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

no more forces there than a minor European prince could have sent, it 
brought into subjection two great empires and other great states. 

While the Spanish were discovering and conquering in the west, the 
Portuguese were extending their conquests and discoveries to the east: 
these two nations met; they had recourse to Pope Alexander VI, who 
made the famous line of demarcation and thus gave judgment on a 
great lawsuit. 

But the other nations of Europe did not let them enjoy this division in 
quiet; the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of much of the East Indies, 
and various nations set up establishments in America. 

At first, the Spanish considered the newly discovered lands as 
objects of conquest; peoples more refined than they saw them as 
objects of commerce and as such directed their attention to them. 
Many peoples acted so wisely that they granted empire to trading 
companies who, governing these distant states only for trade, made a 
great secondary power without encumbering the principal state. 

The colonies formed there are in a kind of dependence of which 
there are very few examples among the ancient colonies, because those 
of today belong either to the state itself or to some commercial company 
established in that state. 

The purpose of these colonies is to engage in commerce under 
better conditions than one has with neighboring peoples with whom all 
advantages are reciprocal. It has been established that only the mother 
country can trade with the colony, and this was done with very good 
reason, for the goal of the establishment was to extend commerce, not 
to found a town or a new empire. 

Thus, in Europe it remains a fundamental law that any commerce 
with a foreign colony is regarded as a pure monopoly enforceable by the 
laws of the country; and one must not judge this by the laws and 
examples of ancient peoples , 144 which are hardly applicable. 

It is acknowledged that the commerce established between mother 
countries does not include permission to trade in the colonies, where it 
continues to be prohibited to them. 

The disadvantage to the colonies, which lose the liberty of com- 
merce, is visibly compensated by the protection of the mother 
country , 145 which defends them by her arms or maintains them by her 

144 Except the Carthaginians, as seen in the treaty ending the First Punic War. 

145 In the language of the ancients, the mother country [metropolis] is the state that has 
founded the colony. 


Part 4 

What follows from this is a third law of Europe, that, when foreign 
commerce is prohibited with the colony, one can navigate its seas only 
when this is established by treaties. 

Nations, which are to the entire universe what individuals are to a 
state, govern themselves as do the latter by natural right and by laws 
they have made for themselves. A people can give up the sea to another, 
as it can give up land. The Carthaginians required 146 the Romans to 
navigate no further than certain limits, just as the Greeks had required 
the king of Persia to stay as far away from the sea coast 147 as a horse 
could run a race. 

The extreme distance of our colonies is not a drawback for their 
security; yet if the mother country is far away for their defense, the 
nations that are rivals of the mother country are no less far away for 
their conquest. 

In addition, this distance makes those who go there to establish 
themselves unable to take up the way of life of such a different climate; 
they are obliged to get all the comforts of life from the country from 
which they have come. The Carthaginians , 148 in order to make the 
Sardinians and the Corsicans more dependent, prohibited them from 
planting, sowing, or doing anything of the like on penalty of death; they 
sent them their food from Africa. We have come to the same point 
without making such harsh laws. Our colonies in the Antilles are 
admirable; they have objects of commerce that we do not and cannot 
have; they lack that which is the object of our commerce. 

The consequence of the discovery of America was to link Asia and 
Africa to Europe. America furnished Europe with the material for its 
commerce in that vast part of Asia called the East Indies. 

Silver, that metal so useful to commerce as a sign, was also the basis 
for the greatest commerce of the universe as a commodity. Finally, 
voyages to Africa became necessary; they furnished men to work the 
mines and lands of America. 

Europe has reached such a high degree of power that nothing in 
history is comparable to it, if one considers the immensity of 
expenditures, the size of military engagements, the number of troops, 

146 Polybius [Historiae], bk. 3 [3.22-24]. 

147 The king of Persia was obliged by treaty to sail no war vessel beyond the Cyanean rocks 
and the Chelidonian Islands. In Plutarch [ Fit .] , Cimon [13.4]. 

148 Aristotle, De mirabilibus auscultationibus [838b26-29, #100]; Livy, decade 2 bk. 7 [in 
Johann Freinsheim, Supplementorum Livianorum 17.15]. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

and their continuous upkeep, even when they are the most useless and 
are only for ostentation. 

Father du Halde 149 says that the internal commerce of China is 
greater than that of all Europe. This might be, if our external 
commerce did not increase our internal commerce. Europe carries on 
the commerce and navigation of the other three parts of the world, just 
as France, England, and Holland carry on nearly all the navigation and 
commerce of Europe. 

149 [Jean Baptiste du Halde, Description de la Chine] bk. 2, p. 170 [“Du commerce des 
Chinois”; 2, 204 H; 2, 169 P; 2, 296 L]. 


On the health that Spain drew from America 

If Europe 150 has found so many advantages in commerce with America, 
it would be natural to believe that Spain would have gained even greater 
ones. It drew from the newly discovered world so prodigious a quantity 
of gold and silver that there was no possible comparison with what there 
had previously been. 

But (what one would never have suspected), poverty made it fail 
almost everywhere. Philip II, who succeeded Charles, was obliged to 
declare bankruptcy, as everyone knows, and scarcely any prince has 
even suffered more than he from the grumbling, the insolence, and the 
rebelliousness of his invariably poorly paid troops. 

After this time, the Spanish monarchy went into an uninterrupted 
decline. This was because there was an internal and physical vice in the 
nature of this wealth, which made it hollow, and this vice increased 

Gold and silver are a wealth of fiction or of sign. These signs are very 
durable and almost indestructible by their nature. The more they 
increase, the more they lose of their worth, because they represent 
fewer things. 

When they conquered Mexico and Peru, the Spanish abandoned 
natural wealth in order to have a wealth of sign, which gradually 

l50 This appeared more than twenty years ago, in a small manuscript work of the author, and 
has been almost entirely incorporated into this one. 


Part 4 

became debased. Gold and silver were very scarce in Europe; and 
Spain, suddenly mistress of a great quantity of these metals, conceived 
expectations she had never had before. The wealth found in the 
conquered countries was not, however, in proportion to that of their 
mines. The Indians hid part of it, and moreover these peoples, who 
used gold and silver only for the magnificence of temples of their gods 
and palaces of their kings, did not search for it with the same avarice as 
we; finally, they did not have the secret of extracting metals from all 
their mines, but only from those where fire separated the metal, as they 
did not know how to use mercury and perhaps were even unfamiliar 
with it. 

Nevertheless, soon there was double the silver in Europe; this was 
evident when the price of everything purchasable doubled. 

The Spanish worked the mines, excavated the mountains, and 
invented machines to draw the waters, break ore and separate it; and, as 
they mocked the lives of the Indians, they worked them mercilessly. 
There was soon double the silver in Europe, and the profit diminished 
by half for Spain, which had each year only the same quantity of a metal 
which had become half as precious. 

As the time doubled, silver doubled again, and the profit again 
decreased by half. 

The profit decreased by more than half; here is how. 

In order to take gold from the mines, in order to give it the required 
preparation and carry it to France, there had to be some expense. I 
assume that it was as i is to 64; when silver had doubled once, and was 
consequently half as precious, the expense was as 2 is to 64. Thus, the 
fleets that carried the same quantity of gold to Spain carried what really 
was valued at half as much and cost twice as much. 

If one follows things from one doubling to the next, one will see how 
the cause of the powerlessness of Spanish wealth progressed. 

The mines of the Indies have been worked for some two hundred 
years. I assume that the quantity of silver at present in the commercial 
world is to that which there was before the discovery as 3 2 is to 1 , that is, 
it has doubled five times in two hundred more years, and the same 
quantity will be to what there was before the discovery as 64 is to 1 , that 
is, it will double again. Now, at present fifty quintals 151 of gold ore gives 
four, five, and six ounces of gold, and when it only gives two, the miner 

15 J See [Amedee F.J Frezier , Relation du voyage detamerdu Sud, du Chili, duPerou, etduBresil 
[“Minieres d’or de Tiltil”; i, 185-190; 1717 ednj. 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

covers only his costs. In two hundred years, if it gives only four, the 
miner will still make only his costs. Therefore, there will be little profit 
in mining gold. The same reasoning follows for silver, except that 
working silver mines is a little more advantageous than gold mines. 

Now, if one discovers mines so abundant that they give more profit, 
the more abundant they are, the sooner the profit will end. 

The Portuguese have found so much gold 152 in Brazil that soon the 
Spaniards’ profit must necessarily diminish markedly, and their own 

I have more than once heard deplored the blindness of the Council 
of Francis I for refusing Christopher Columbus’ proposal to go to the 
Indies. In truth one did, perhaps imprudendy, a very wise thing. Spain 
acted like the foolish king who asked that everything he touched turn 
into gold and who was obliged to go back to the gods and beg that they 
put an end to his destitution. 

The companies and banks that many nations established completed 
the debasement of gold and silver in their status as signs, for by new 
fictions, they so increased the signs for produce that gold and silver 
performed that office only in part and became less precious. 

Thus public credit replaced mines and diminished still further the 
profit the Spanish drew from theirs. 

It is true that Dutch commerce with the Indies gave some price to the 
Spanish commodities for, as the Dutch carried silver to barter for the 
commodities of the East, in Europe they relieved the Spanish of part of 
the produce, which was over- abundant. 

And this commerce, which seems to concern Spain only indirectly, is 
advantageous to Spain as well as to those nations that engage in it 

By all that has just been said, one can judge the ordinances of the 
Council of Spain, which prohibited the use of gold and silver for gilding 
and other superfluities; this is as if the states of Holland made a decree 
prohibiting the consumption of cinnamon. 

My reasoning does not apply to all mines; those of Germany and 
Hungary, from which one gets little more than costs, are very useful. 

152 According to Lord Anson, Europe receives from Brazil every year two million sterling of 
gold that is found in the sand at the foot of the mountains or in riverbeds. When I wrote the 
short book I have mentioned in the first note of this chapter, the proceeds from Brazil were 
far from being as important as they are today. [George Anson, A Voyage Round the World in 
the Years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV, pp. 59-64; 1974 edn.] 


Part 4 

They are found in the principal state; they employ several thousand 
men who consume the over-abundant produce; the mines are properly 
a manufactory 0 of the country. 

The German and Hungarian mines make cultivating the land 
worthwhile, and working those of Mexico and Peru destroys that 

The Indies and Spain are two powers under the same master, but the 
Indies are the principal one, and Spain is only secondary. In vain policy 
wants to reduce the principal one to a secondary one; the Indies 
continue to attract Spain to themselves. 

Of the fifty million in commodities which go to the Indies every year, 
Spain furnishes only two and a half million; therefore, the Indies 
engage in a commerce worth fifty million, and Spain in one worth two 
and a half million. 

An accidental tax that does not depend on the industry of the nation, 
the number of its inhabitants, or the cultivation of its lands is a bad kind 
of wealth. The king of Spain, who receives great sums from his customs 
houses in Cadiz, is, in this regard, only a very wealthy individual in a 
very poor state. Everything goes from foreigners to him with his 
subjects taking almost no part in it; this commerce is independent of 
the good and bad fortune of his kingdom. 

If some of the provinces in Castile gave him a sum like that of the 
customs houses in Cadiz, his power would be very much greater: his 
wealth would be only the result of the country’s wealth; these provinces 
would enliven all the others; and all together they would be in a better 
position to support their respective burdens; instead of a great treasury, 
one would have a great people. 

“See 23.14 (note d , bk. 23). We have used this eighteenth-century English word in 
order for Montesquieu’s economics not to appear even more modern than it is. 


A problem 

It is not for me to pronounce on the question of whether it would be 
more worth while for Spain, if it cannot engage in that commerce by 
itself, to open the Indies to foreigners. I shall say only that it is suitable 


Commerce: the revolutions it has had in the world 

for it to put the fewest obstacles in the way of commerce that its policy 
can permit. When the commodities that the various nations carry' to the 
Indies are expensive there, the Indies give many of their commodities, 
which are gold and silver, for a few of the foreign commodities; the 
opposite happens when the latter have a low price. It would perhaps be 
useful for these nations to work against each other so that the 
commodities they carry to the Indies would always be inexpensive. 
These are principles that must be examined without, however, separat- 
ing them from other considerations: the security of the Indies, the 
usefulness of a single customs house, the dangers of great change, and 
the drawbacks that one foresees and which are often less dangerous 
than those one cannot foresee. 


BOOK 22 

On laws in their relation to 
the use of money 


The reason for the use of money 

Peoples who have little in the way of commodities for commerce, such 
as savages, and peoples with a police who have only two or three kinds, 
trade by exchange. Thus the Moorish caravans that go to Timbuktu in 
the heart of Africa to barter salt for gold need no money. The Moor 
puts his salt in a pile; the Negro, his gold dust in another; if there is not 
enough gold, the Moor takes back some of his salt or the Negro adds to 
his gold, until the parties agree. 

But when a people deals in a large number of commodities, there 
must necessarily be money, because a metal that is easy to transport 
saves much of the cost one would be obliged to incur if one always 
proceeded by exchange. 

As all nations have reciprocal needs, it often happens that one of 
them wants a very large number of the other’s commodities and the 
latter very few of the former’s; whereas, with regard to another nation, 
the situation is reversed. But when nations have money and proceed by 
sale and purchase, the ones that take more commodities settle their 
accounts, or pay the excess, with silver; and there is the difference that, 
in the case of purchase, commerce is done in proportion to the needs of 
the nation that requires the most and, in exchange, commerce is done 
only to the extent of the needs of the nation that requires the least; if 
this were not so, the latter would find it impossible to settle its accounts. 


The laws and the use of money 


On the nature of money 

Money is a sign representing the value of all commodities. Some metal 
is chosen, so that the sign will be durable , 1 will be little worn by use, and 
can be divided many times without being destroyed. A precious metal is 
chosen so that the sign can be carried easily. A metal is an altogether 
appropriate common measure because it can easily be reduced to the 
same grade. Each state stamps it, so that the form reflects the grade and 
the weight and so that both may be known simply by looking at it. 

Before using metals, the Athenians used oxen , 2 and the Romans 
sheep, but one ox is not the same as another in the way one piece of 
metal can be the same as another. 

As silver is the sign of the values of commodities, paper is a sign of 
the value of silver, and when the paper is good, it represents silver so 
well that there is no difference in its effect. 

Just as silver is the sign of a thing and represents it, each thing is a 
sign of silver and represents it; and a state is prosperous insofar as, on 
the one hand, the silver indeed represents all things, and on the other, 
all things indeed represent silver, and they are signs of one another; 
that is, their relative value is such that one can have the first as soon as 
one has the other. This happens only in a moderate government, but it 
does not always happen in a moderate government; for example, if the 
laws favor an unjust debtor, the things belonging to him do not 
represent silver and are not a sign of it. With regard to despotic 
government, it would be a marvel if things there represented their sign; 
tyranny and distrust make everyone bury his silver ; 3 therefore, things 
there do not represent silver at all. 

Legislators have sometimes used such art that things have not only 
represented silver by their nature but they have become money like 
silver itself. Caesar 4 as dictator permitted debtors to give lands in 

1 Salt, used in Abyssinia, has the shortcoming of constantly wasting away. 

2 Herodotus [The Persian Wars] in Clio [1.94], tells us that the Lydians discovered the art of 
minting money; the Greeks took it from them; the ancient ox was stamped on the money of 
Athens. I have seen one of these coins in the Earl of Pembroke’s collection. 

3 It is an old usage in Algiers for each father of a family to have a buried treasure . Laugier de 
Tassy ,Histoiredu royaume d’Alger [chap. 8, “Des Mceurs et des Coutumes des Algeriens”; 
p. 117; 1720 edn], 

4 See Julius Caesar, De hello Civili, bk. 3 [3.1]. 


Part 4 

payment to their creditors at the price they fetched before the civil war. 
Tiberius 5 ordered that those who wanted silver could have it from the 
public treasury by pledging lands worth double the amount. Under 
Caesar, lands were the money that paid all debts; under Tiberius, ten 
thousand sesterces of land became the money in common use, like